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Analyzing the Spice Trade

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September 13th, 2015 Posted 2:34 pm

The Spice Trade was one of the most impactful events that ever existed in history. If we had asked Europeans centuries ago, none of them would probably guess what the Spice Trade had changed and affected. Though, it started with a main purpose to, yes, trade for spices, the influence it had on history was so much more than it seemed. The spice trade was a source of constant conflict and hostilities, with countries fighting over land to gain the upper hand in the spice trade. However, it also started one of the first attempts to globalization, with explorers and ships being sent off into the vast unknown, interacting and sharing ideas with people of all lands. Thus, the Spice Trade was not just simply trading. It set off a whole chain reaction of power struggles and wars over the control of trade routes and connected the world through the sharing of ideas such as religion, cultural practices, language and technology.

To secure their control over the spice trade for economic benefits, the Europeans powers often engaged in war to establish their dominance or to gain more power and land. How did this all start though? When spices were first introduced to Medieval Europe, it was favored so much that it became a luxurious commodity, even more precious than gold. It was used to flavor food, preserve meat, make perfumes and medicine, and so much more, completely integrating itself into a part of Europe’s culture. Spices became a symbol of wealth and high status for Europeans, which drove demand of spices high. As spices could only be grown in Asia, Europeans were completely cut off from the spice trade because of their geographical position. Their only access was through Arab traders, who took advantage of the situation. Monopolizing the spice trade, the Arabs controlled the supply and price of the coveted spices, causing prices to rocket and spices to be unaffordable for most Europeans. As a result, European royals started to seek for trade routes for cheaper access to the resources that they desired for – spices. The Portuguese were the first to attempt (followed by the Spanish), sponsoring voyages to search for the East Indies, the source of the lucrative spice trade. This launched the age of discovery in the 15th century, with Portugal and Spain successfully establishing control over many overseas territories of South Asia, and becoming rich from their conquests. Seeing the great economic value in these conquests, England, France and Netherlands followed suit, finding ways to expand their control in the East Indies and thus, control and monopolize the spice trade. Many wars erupted, such as the Seven Years’ War, which mainly arose over conflict between Britain and France over land, and also the Indian Rebellion of 1857, with Indian Sepoys rising up to fight the East India Company. Europe’s advancement into exploration and colonization also led to the rise of many empires, most notably the British Empire, which as seen in the map below, was the largest empire to ever exist in history. With multiple countries all attempting to expand control over the same territory, power struggles began, with both the native people and also other European countries. “Your Petitioners think it necessary for the Security and Protection of their Trade and Possessions in the East-Indies as soon as possible to to [sic] enlist a Number of Men to serve as Soldiers in India…” This quote was taken from an English letter of 1789, Raising Soldiers for India by Thomas Morton, who requested for more troops from the King. We can see that military presence was constantly required for these European countries to keep their political power strong in their colonies and most importantly, maintain their power over the spice trade.

Europeans’ desire for spices not only had a political and economical impact on the world, but also intertwined the world together through the spreading of ideas and culture. Before Europeans started their conquests and monopolies over the spice trade, spices were brought to Europe by Asian merchants and Arab middlemen. On their travels, Asian merchants also brought their religious beliefs with them, especially Buddhism, which became the predominant religion of Asian regions for centuries. After Europeans started to colonize Asia and also Americas and Africa, many European leaders attempted convert the natives to Christianity, sending missionaries to spread the culture, helping Christianity to become the largest religion today. Religion was not the only culture that had spread through the world. In the beginning of the Age of Discovery, Europeans had borrowed maritime technology from many other cultures, “such as the compass and stern-post rudder from China, the Arab lateen sail, and Muslim charts and maps” (Spice It Up), which helped them take their first step into the world of trading. Later on, the British Empire also had a lasting influence on its colonies (look at map above), with many of its past colonies using the English parliamentary system for government and English common laws. The English language has also become the dominant language of the world, with other countries and regions seeing it necessary to use English in order to trade with the vast empire. British sports such as cricket and rugby also were popularized internationally, especially in India (not so much rugby), Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa, due to the expansion of the British Empire. Hence, trade had influenced and changed many cultures of different regions through the introduction of new people to new lands.


It is hard to believe that people’s desire for a better tasting meal could impact the world so greatly. Yet this was exactly what the Spice trade had achieved. With spices being especially desired by the European population, their leaders led many conquests of foreign lands to obtain the spices they wanted, changing the political and economical dynamics of the world. Through the actions of trading and conquering, different cultures were also spread to different regions, connecting previously isolated regions together. The Spice Trade was truly impactful, and completely changed the course of history and the world.


Who’s Telling the Truth?

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June 2nd, 2015 Posted 12:16 am

Every story had two sides. Sometimes even three sides. Neither side was ever definitely right or definitely wrong, neither was any side true or false. There was Nick Dunne, a chronic people-pleaser, who fell in love with a “fun girl” who eventually turned bitter and cold. There was Diary Amy, the loving and fun wife that bore with all of Nick’s faults, the perspective that Amy Dunne had fabricated. Last but definitely not least, there was Amy Dunne, the clever and headstrong perfectionist, who saw everything and everybody as a major competition in which she had to be declared the champion. As the story behind Amy Dunne’s disappearance unraveled, the three main perspectives of Gilligan Flynn’s Gone Girl each illustrate a picture for the reader that contradict each other, creating tension as the story rose up to the climax.

As the investigation on Amy Dunne’s disappearance continues to grow larger and larger, the readers were presented with a case of whodunit. With both Nick and the two completely opposite versions of Amy share their own story, the situation is only complicated. Nick Dunne, the husband of Amy Dunne, painted a picture of an over controlling and bitter wife that he could never meet the expectations of. “I’d come home to find Amy in a tight ball on the sofa, Amy staring at the wall, silent, never saying the first word to me, always waiting, a perpetual game of icebreaking, a constant mental challenge – what will make Amy happy today?” (Flynn, pg 146). Amy pushed Nick away both physically and emotionally, leaving him to reminisce the old days when Amy was sweet and fun, instead of the chiding voice that nagged him everyday. The cold and bitterness that he received from home also pushed him towards a girl that “laughed with me and made me laugh, she didn’t immediately contradict me or second-guess me. She never scowled at me. She was easy”, who Nick was felt like the complete opposite of Amy.

However, Nick’s story maybe not be the complete picture. The reader’s first encounter with Amy is through her diary from over the years of Amy and Nick’s relationship. A loving and understanding wife, Amy Dunne was the dream wife that every man aspired for. Their time together was “reading in bed and waffles on Sunday and laughing at nothing and his mouth on yours”, and the best time that she ever had” (pg 30). They vowed to never be like the other marriages where the men were dancing monkeys, “who had to perform the horrible thins women make their husbands do to prove their love. The pointless tasks, the myriad sacrifices, the endless small surrenders” (pg 55). Yet over the years, Nick was no longer able to always hold up his end of the bargain, always coming home with a frown and impatience for his wife. Every bit of understanding, Amy not only forgave Nick for all of his faults but tried to see faults in herself and see how she could change for Nick. “I will not let my worst self ruin my marriage” (pg 171). Despite him mistreating towards Amy, her love for him allows her to staying in her loveless marriage with a man that she had grown afraid of.

Two people from one marriage with two completely different viewpoints. Who should the reader believe? The tension and suspense grew as the two perspectives pushed off of each other, one panting a white canvas while the other painting a black one. Though Nick seemed to be a good guy, his multiple discretions (“It was my fifth lie to the police. I was just starting” and cheating on his wife) leads the to be drawn to sympathize with Diary Amy (pg 37). Nick was immediately seen as the murderer of his wife as more and more evidence of his indiscretions were revealed.

The whole situation is flipped on its back and completely changed when the final and most shocking perspective was revealed. The Real Amy. The Amy that the readers had known and grown to sympathize with had turned out to be just a figment of imagination, something used as a tool to frame Nick. The real Amy was headstrong, and enjoyed getting things her way. A perfectionist in every part of her body, she was never able to develop a personality, but instead “I change personalities. What person feels good, what’s coveted, what’s au courant?” (pg 222). For Nick, she put on what she called the Cool Girl personality, who she described to “the girl who likes every … thing he likes and doesn’t ever complain” (pg 222). Though she despised those who sank to the levels of self-degradation to please men, “it’s tempting to be Cool Girl. For someone who likes to win, it’s tempting to want to be the girl every guy wants” (pg 223). When she first met Nick, she wanted him to like her, to accept and lover her, and in turn, put on the Cool Girl persona. Yet, as the years passed on, Amy could no longer stand it. She thought that Nick understood her true personality, and let all the Cool Girl slide away. When Nick showed confusion and surprise by her new personality, Amy could not forgive Nick for this. “Can you imagine, finally showing your true self to your spouse, your soul mate, and having him not like you?” (pg 225). When she discovered that Nick was cheating on her, she could no longer stand it. Divorcing him was not an option for her headstrong and competitive personality. “I won’t divorce him because that’s exactly what he’d like. And I won’t forgive him because I don’t feel like turning the other cheek. Can I make it any more clear? I won’t find that a satisfactory ending. The bad guy wins? F*** him” (pg 234). She decided to disappear and then frame Nick for her murder. “Nick must be taught a lesson” (pg 234).

These three perspectives came to combine and layer the story with different levels of suspense. In the beginning, the reader is put in between Nick and Diary Amy’s different versions of the truth, and given the important and hard job of deciding who had committed the crime. The suspense reaches a complete level when everything that the reader had done before had been discovered, and the true criminal had been revealed, Amy. Now, everything was about Amy’s master plan, and seeing Nick fall in to every trap and Amy had set.


Flynn, Gillian. Gone Girl: A Novel. New York: Crown, 2012. Print.

Polymer Project Journal 4

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April 15th, 2015 Posted 12:03 pm

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(Photos from our advertisement)

Today was the showing of our commercial videos for our polymer products. I was excited and very curious to see what my classmates came up with. Unlike most times, when I was nervous about my own ad, I was feeling pretty confident about it as I had received praise from Amy about it, who thought it was hilarious. J When I watched our ad on the big screen, I thought that our video was entertaining in many parts but also showed our product clearly, which I thought was a problem that appeared in some of the other ads. I thought that we had filmed our ad quite well considering that our prototype was one time use only(the sticky substance and top white protector layer would mix together, and all the sticky qualities would be lost), which meant we could only film things involving our prototype once. This was one big flaw with our prototype.

There were many interesting product ideas that my classmates came up with. I think the most unique but still very useful product was the stretch pouch that Amy and David created. Their idea was completely different from everybody’s ideas and is something that I might actually considering buying it was an actual product. However, I felt as if there was a video was not as exciting or appealing to the audience as it was just a video of Amy talking and explaining the product.

This project, though in the beginning I thought had not much connection to our unit, turned out to be really interesting and showed me how science and chemistry is actually used in the real world. Even though none of our prototypes were close to useable, it was really fun being able to put ourselves in the product making mindset and exploring the different polymers. I wish that we had more time on our project to explore different combinations of chemicals and even possibly make more prototypes!

A Desperately Sad Marriage in a Desperately Sad Place

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April 15th, 2015 Posted 1:37 am

New York was frantic, thrilling, fun. New York was a busy, bustling city with people of all sorts, millions of cars on the streets, tall buildings, shops, bars, restaurants, malls covering every square inch of the city and a city that people fall in love with. Let’s then travel south to a small town in Mississippi, North Carthage, where the economy had been completely ruined and was overrun by crime and homelessness. Nick and Amy, the starring characters in the Gilligan Flynn novel’s, Gone Girl, had lost both their dream jobs as magazine writers and moved from New York (Amy’s home) to North Carthage (Nick’s home) two years ago because of Nick’s ailing parents. With the move from the busy and upbeat New York City to the small and pathetic Mississippi town, North Carthage, Nick and Amy’s marital problems started emerging in this depressing and gloomy scene.

North Carthage was a completely different world from New York. Though it was once “a company town and that company was the sprawling Riverway Mall, a tiny city unto itself that once employed four thousand locals – one-fifth of the population”, the recession and consequently, downfall of the mall destroyed the town financially (Flynn, pg 72). Nick and Amy lived in a mostly vacant “miniature ghost town of bank-owned, recession-bused, price-reduced mansions, a neighbor that closed before it ever opened”, the kind of house that the Amy despised and mocked (pg 4). Compared to their past jobs in New York as magazine writers, Nick now had a menial job of owning a bar, while Amy was a housewife. The closing of the mall also caused large amounts of people to lose their jobs and their houses, and the whole town faced epidemics of crime and homelessness. “Guys are camped out everywhere. The whole town is overrun with pissed-off unemployed people” (pg 71). This town was full of anger and irritation as people tried (not really) to fix their lives with little success. Many troublemakers in town, their time once limited to the weekends, could now roam free anytime they want, drinking and harassing people. Gangs formed in the empty malls to sell drugs, some even gang-raping girls. Depressing and suffocating, the economically devastated and crime ridden North Carthage set a eerie and dark scene for the events of the rest of the novel.

“I simply assumed I would bundle up my New York wife with her New York interests, her New York pride, and remove her from her New York parents—leave the frantic, thrilling futureland of Manhattan behind—and transplant her to a little town on the river in Missouri and all would be fine” (pg 6). No, all was not fine! Just like how North Carthage had hit a recession, Nick and Amy’s marriage was also in recession. The move to North Carthage marked a turning point in their marriage and they were no longer able to communicate with each other or share intimacy, with “our main form of conversation was attack and rebuttal” (pg 46). North Carthage, the sad mess of a town that it was, acted as a noose on Nick and Amy, slowly killing and choking the life and soul out of their marriage. Nick no longer had any positive associations of Amy anymore, believing that she had changed from the fun and carefree person he had loved and turned into a brittle and bitter person that Nick couldn’t keep up with. “My wife was no longer my wife but a razor-wire knot daring me to unloop her, and I was not up to the job with my thick, numb, nervous finger…untrained in the intricate, dangerous work of solving Amy” (pg 49). Anger was a built in component of their marriage, with “one of us…always angry. Amy, usually” (pg 4). Thus their marriage reflected their surroundings, a group of discontent, angry and bitter people, with North Carthage being the perfect bleak and wretched setting for their failing marriage.

Flynn, Gillian. Gone Girl: A Novel. New York: Crown, 2012. Print.

Polymer Project Journal 3

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April 12th, 2015 Posted 4:13 pm

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(1st image: ProPhone being used; 2nd image: Stretching White Top Base; 3rd photo: Our product; 4th image:

We focused on filming our advertisement today. The top base (protecting white layer) had dried from last class and was now perfect for use! We found out later that it was a good idea to make double the amount as we had to film one scene twice and the top base and bottom base had mixed together after using it once. However, we had to make another batch of the sticky substance as it was still stringy to use. Instead of using guar gum this time (as we realized thickening didn’t mean it would be more solid like), we added a few drops of borax instead (as we noticed it made things harder/rubbery, but too much of it made it less sticky). Our product, the ProPhone’s (protect your phone!) target audience is anyone who owns a phone but may not be able to afford an expensive branded phone case. This has a large impact, as it is very easy for accidents to happen which may lead to a broken phone, which we hope the ProPhone may prevent. Our advertisement used fear (scenes of people dropping their phones) to appeal to people who own phones and included a tutorial on using the ProPhone, also showing its DIY feature.

Polymer Project Journal 2

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April 8th, 2015 Posted 2:53 pm

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(Image 1: our DIY feature; Image 2: Prototype material; Image 3: Making our prototypes)

When we checked on the three prototypes we made last class, we were excited. Though the first two were ideal, the third one was soft, rubbery and stretchy, exactly what we wanted – except it was not sticky. Based off research, we learned that a sticky substance could be made from mixing white glue and laundry at a 2:1 ratio. This sticky substance came out well, but the problem was that it was too liquid like and stuck to our hands. To fix the liquid problem, we added guar gum, a thickening agent. We then decided to make this product have two parts: the bottom base (sticky tack) and top base (white rubbery substance); this worked! As we played around with our prototype, we discovered that it could pick up pencil markings and marker ink from a piece of paper. A new idea then came to us – DIY phone cases. People could draw a design with either pencil or marker onto a piece of paper and print the design onto the outside (soft and rubbery prototype) part of the phone protector by pressing it on the paper. Our product was not only useful, but also allowed people to be creative.

Polymer Project Journal 1

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April 5th, 2015 Posted 5:21 am

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(1st image: Mixing the ingredients; 2nd image: First trial product; 3rd image: Adding cornstarch)

We started on our polymer project today! With my partner, Anna, we are to create a polymer product that has real world impact. The product that we have thought of is an electronic protector. A lot of people own phones and other electronics and it is often very easy to scratch it or drop it on the floor. We hope that by sticking our product onto their electronics, damage can be prevented if something did happen. For our first test, we used borax, (to make it bouncy and rubbery), PVA and glue (to make it sticky). It turned out to be really bouncy but not sticky at all. For our second test we decided to use more PVA and glue to make it stickier. Though it was very sticky, it only stuck to our hands but not plastic or metal surfaces. After doing some research on blu-tack (which is sort of similar to our product), we decided to add some cornstarch and water, with the hopes of having some Non-Newtonian qualities to our product. It came out slightly better than the tests before. We will check how it turned out after it dried.

Cultural Un-Barriers Project Reflection

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March 30th, 2015 Posted 1:03 pm

For this unit in art, we focused on understanding our cultural identity, which was mostly expressed through the symbol that we created for our stamp. The main project consisted of three parts: cultural symbol stamp, background printing and digital portraits. To start our project, we first explored what made up our cultural identity through mind maps, which contained five aspects of our culture. The five categories I had chosen were nationality, home, food, education, and language. After choosing one aspect from our mind map, designed a symbol based on images that represent the cultural aspect I chose, and carved the design into foam. I made a background design by printing bottle caps and textured paper and rolling rollers onto a large sheet of paper with analogous colors. I also drew a digital portrait of myself using Adobe Illustrator. Afterwards, I printed my stamp onto the background design with a color that was complementary to the background color. Ms. Zvinakis also sent our digital portraits to be printed so we could stick it onto our background designs.

For my stamp, I chose to focus on both nationality and home. I have always had this long paragraph prepared every time someone asked me where I’m from. My parents were Taiwanese, I was born in Hong Kong, and I have passports from Taiwan, Hong Kong and Canada (which I had because of my parents). I was never really sure where I am from though. I had never lived in Canada before and I had only been there three times; I never identified myself as a Canadian – it was just another passport I had. I saw myself as Taiwanese, but also connected to some parts of Hong Kong culture. However, I saw Beijing as my home because I have lived in Beijing for almost my whole life. To combine these three cultures, I used the shape of the Taipei 101 to represent Taiwanese culture, the Hong Kong Orchids to represent Hong Kong culture, and the great wall to represent Beijing. The additional stamp I chose represented the mixture of Korean culture and Chinese culture, which is a similar concept to my stamp.

Drawing digital images always seemed like something only professional people would do. Whenever I saw cartoon images online or on television, I would be completely amazed with their work! At first, I imagined that Adobe Illustrator would a very hard program with many different features that I could never understand how to use. However, as I was drawing the portrait, I realized that, as long as you concentrated and put effort into, it was quite simple to do. Yes, of course there were some things that I found annoying or difficult such as the switching between layers and making straight lines that connected properly, but it was still really fun. Though I used 3 hours to finish it (I don’t know how time just flew by), it was a really cool experience and I want to learn more about Illustrator and learn how to use more advanced features.

The most challenging thing for me was coming up with a design for my stamp that both represented everything I wanted but still looked simple. I had come up with some designs that I thought were pretty cool but still had too many different shapes that clumped together or didn’t seem to fit together. I finally had to “compromise” with myself and choose only the images or components of my design that were essential, which turned out to be a design I really liked 😀 – this was the AHA moment. Throughout the whole project, my favorite part was making the background design and printing the stamps as you could do almost anything you wanted – it was all very free. This project not only taught me that there were so many different things you could do in art (even involving technology!), but allowed myself to explore my cultural identity.


Science Reflective Journal – March 19 Chemistry Unit Test

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March 30th, 2015 Posted 12:13 pm

We had the science test today! I was really worried about it at first as I didn’t have a lot of time to study. That worry soon faded away. Though it wasn’t too hard, I was still unsure about one or two questions. After I handed in the test, I was relieved. We were supposed to start brainstorming ideas about our project but we didn’t have time. 🙁 Looking forward to it when we get back!

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This Is How He Lived

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March 19th, 2015 Posted 2:52 pm

Life of Pi Blog Post 3

Life of Pi, a book by Yann Martel, was all about survival. Pi Patel, the protagonist of the book, survived for 227 days on a lifeboat in the middle of the Pacific with a Bengal tiger, Richard Parker, after a shipwreck. His survival was anything but easy, and he underwent many changes to adapt to his new environment. From the carefree and gentle boy who lived under the shelter of his family, he became stronger and independent, even displaying signs of brutality and animalistic characteristics. Two major themes of this book, the Will to Live and Storytelling, all shaped the changes to his personality.

“Had I considered my prospects in light of reason, I surely would have given up and let go of the oar, hoping that I might drown before being eaten” (Martel, 253). After Pi jumped off the lifeboat to escape Richard Parker, his will to live made him hold on to the row hanging from the lifeboat. From this, we could see that in a desperate situation, the sheer will to live can outweigh any logical thought. This “will to live” and survival instincts made Pi realize that he needed to learn to grow up and become self-sufficient. Originally a vegetarian, his need for food allowed him to put aside his preferences and to kill and consume animals. He used his urine to mark his territory – an action of animals – to keep Richard Parker out, an was even once tempted to drink his own urine, “my urine looked delicious!” (267).

Pi always loved stories. As a child, he loved to listen to stories of different religions. Stories – unlike “dry, yeastless factuality” – could give much more imagination to people and inspire its listeners, providing people with “the better story” (153). When being interrogated by two Japanese officials, who want to have a better understanding of why the ship Pi was on sank, Pi told his story of survival on the sea differently – a version with humans. The animals that appeared in his first story all reflected people that were aboard the lifeboat, and where, he was actually Richard Parker. His more imaginative story was not technically a lie – it was a story that represented the emotional side of the whole journey. It also could possibly be a way for Pi to deal with the possible horrors that he saw on the sea. To him, the tiger was not a lie – it was a representation of his brutal and cruel side that allowed him to survive.

In my mind map, I showed the two major themes of this book, with Pi’s character developments and other evidence from the book to show the theme. I also included a quote about the theme on each side.

Martel, Yann. Life of Pi. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print.