Semester Two Project Pitch

I decided this semester to stay with a similar topic and, like the first semester project, to look into another problem that is prominent and important but mostly ignored. I chose to look into the prison system, and life for women in prison specifically. Just doing a little research there’s a lot of aspects I can look into, including the dehumanization of inmates in prison, abuse, mental effects, social life, overcrowding, gangs, health, and opinions about what steps should be taken, if any. I am unsure about sticking with a specific topic, because all the aspects in prison all play a role in the bigger picture. I find this topic interesting because its a somewhat taboo subject, and I know people personally who believe and argue that because they are criminals they don’t deserve certain rights and treatment.

I am starting my project with a book, which seems inspirational, about how a woman went from modeling and being wealthy to cheating on her husband and abusing drugs and alcohol to prison and how that effected her life. I’ve read a little, and it’s interesting because overall it seems positive and her story about how she changed her life, but the book opens with,” When I was charged and placed in the God-awful, sick and abusive Franklin County Jail Workhouse in my hometown…”. The words God-awful, sick, and abusive have a very negative connotation to them which is conflicting when I think about how the book is supposed to be about how she improved her life. I am interested in seeing how that plays out. I think it might be about how in such a dark place she found her self and improved. The next source I have planned for this project, and cited, is a TED talk about how “Prisons Can Help Inmates Live Meaningful Lives”. I am biased in thinking that prison is a negative place and I am looking forward to seeing his argument about how prisons are beneficial. Other than these, my mom has a friend who is a security guard at the all girl’s prison in Eagle River, and she is helping me with getting an interview with him, and possibly the inmates. I am hoping to save this for last, after I have a better knowledge and have better questions to ask. I am very excited about this and I think it will do a good job of getting personal stories from Alaska and tie up my project. If you have suggestions about articles to read or another book, I’d be glad to hear them!

Wickes-Passmore, Amy, and Kristine Stevens. From Privilege to Prison: Finding Purpose in a Dark Place. Ed. Martin Yant. N.p.: n.p., n.d. 11 Dec. 2014. Web.

Pacholke, Dan. “How Prisons Can Help Inmates Live Meaningful Lives.” How Prisons Can Help Inmates Live Meaningful Lives. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Jan. 2015.

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Semester 1 Reflection

  1. What are your strengths in this class? What have you done well? What kind of material, reading and/or writing, do you feel most confident completing? What do you plan to do to sustain these strengths? I have done well with the more creative writing assignments and feel more comfortable with them. An example of this would be the satire, which had a structure to follow but it was a loose guideline and there was the opportunity to be creative, and humorous and have my voice come through. I think I did a good job on the semester project as well, in terms of being independent and researching and analyzing the information. I think to sustain these strengths I need to keep myself in check and make sure that I do not blow off the more creative assignments just because I know I do well with them. Also, I have surprised myself with the multiple choice passages we have worked with, every time I do better than I thought I did and I would consider those to be one of my strengths too.
  2. What are your weaknesses in this class, either academic or behaviorally, or both? What are your biggest challenges in this class? Contrary to my strength, my weakness in this class academically is following a strict structure in writing, such as the model Twain paragraph. Its harder for me to follow a strict pattern, and I find it challenging for my voice to come through in the writing. Going up and talking in front of the class, finding a group for assignments, answering questions in class, and not joining group discussions is something I struggle with. While some people would say that a behavior problem of theirs is talking to much, my problem would be not talking enough. Also, I struggle with pre-20th century pieces, and it is harder for me to understand.
  3. How do you plan to adjust your approach to this class to become more successful and to improve on your weaknesses? I plan on working more on the strict and structural writing we do so I can become better at those types of writing. I think if I pay attention to the fact I struggle in that area, I will be able to do better and improve. I will also talk more in class and be a better participant in class discussions. I think to understand the pre-20th century pieces, I will work on strengthening my vocabulary and possibly read a pre-20th century writing for the semester project.

Semester 2 Project; I have no idea what to start with for the semester two project. I think this weekend or sometime soon, I will look up books online or go to a bookstore or library and find something that interests me and go from there. Similarly to the semester one project, I would like to find a topic that is controversial and ignored, even though it is important.

Inside Job, Documentary, 2010

  • This documentary compares Iceland to America, explores the effects of the global economic crisis, and also explores the lifestyles of those involved in the financial sector in order to take a closer look at what brought about the financial meltdown of 2008.
  • “The global economic crisis of 2008 cost tens of millions of people their savings, their jobs, and their homes”
  • The documentary begins with the comparison of Iceland and America. Iceland went from the perfect place to live, to the collapse of Iceland’s banks, unemployment tripling in six months, privatized banks, and the eventual ruining of the economy. While all of this was taking place, the government’s regulators did nothing, with one third of the financial regulators going to work for the three major, now privatized banks. The situation in Iceland is very similar to the situation in America. After the great depression, there was strict regulations, which led to 40 years without a crisis. Starting with the Reagan administration, and banks going public in the eighties, people working in the financial sector started getting rich. This led to a thirty year period of financial deregulation. Similarily to Iceland, there were dangerous incentives and there was a general disregard for the impact of their actions. This rise of the U.S financial sector due to these incentives has led to a series of increasingly severe financial crisis, with this documentary focusing on the global economic crisis of 2008. I always knew that Wall Street and the stock market effected the entire economy and everyone’s lives, but this documentary gave me the connection and the reasoning as to why the financial sector effects everyone’s lives, and the 2008 crisis is a great example of this. The risky investments cost tax payers 124 billion dollars, while people on Wall Street were getting rich, and leading ridiculously lavish lifestyles. These lifestyles included the use of drugs, specifically cocaine, prostitutes, and strippers. The people leading these lifestyles had no problem with spending the day with a prostitute and going home to their wife and children. I think that all the money laundering and lying and rule breaking and drug use shows that the people involved in the financial sector lack morals, and therefore it isn’t a big deal for them to be betting against bad investments at the same time they’re telling customers they were good investments, in order to make money and benefit personally. And because these people lack morals and ethics, and a general disregard for their impact, the economy crashed, but they continued and still continue to live their lavish lifestyles, with little legal consequences. Overall, this documentary shows the effects of the deregulation and dangerous incentives on the average American, which is something I always knew but never had a good argument for. And while Flash Boys went into detail how this unethical behavior took place, this documentary makes the connection as to why its important to care about this unethical behavior, and how it effects everyone. And I see a solution to this unethical behavior as more regulations, like how if was after the great depression. However there are many problems that arise with that solution, and I think that is one reason why Wall Street is such a challenge, not only to understand, but to fix.

Chapter 8 and epilogue, pages 244-271

  • Chapter eight ties up loose ends with Aleynikov’s trial and the development of his character, while leaving more questions unanswered about the motive and the trial, and the overall motive of the big players in Wall Street. The epilogue sums up the overall book, while addressing the relationship between Goldman Sachs and Alenynikov, Goldman Sachs and Brad Kaysuyama, and The HFT code and the stock market. The overarching theme of the effects of time was also addressed and summed up.
  • “how they could have gone from bringing the wrath of US prosecutors[ the FBI ] down upon Serge Aleynikov for emailing their high-frequency trading computer code to himself, to helping Brad Katsuyama change the US stock market in ways that would render Goldman’s high-frequency trading computer code worthless.
  • One thing I found interesting in chapter 8 was how many more discrepancies existed in Aleynikov’s trial, such as all of the jurors lacking experience programming computers. Also, Goldman Sachs never asked him to explain himself, and the FBI did not look for help from anyone who understood computers or HFT. I think it is also fascinating how the justice system is set in place to dig out the truth, but to have uneducated jurors and police officers and the sorts, how can they successfully dig out the truth? That presents the question of who would have control over that sort of manipulation, as well as why someone would manipulate the system in such a way. This is one problem I always thought there was with prosecuting Wall Street workers high up the social ladder and of high importance of power. So this chapter also presented the issue of how to deal with the lying and cheating and stealing that takes place in Wall Street, and I am planning on researching more before I attempt to answer that question. The motives were also questioned, such as why Goldman Sachs called the FBI, why Aleynikov stole the code and never opened it, and why Goldman Sachs would help Katsuyma change the market so that the stolen code would become worthless. And I do not have answers to those questions, and I hope to research more before I attempt to answer those questions. One thing I learned is that Wall Street and the stock market is a dangerous game, and that people need to think twice before getting involved in any way.

Chapter 7, pages 193-245

  • This chapter focuses on Zoran Perkov, and how 9/11 taught him that he handled crisis situations well, and liked being in the drama. This new found passion caused Perkov to leave the tech support side of Wall Street to work for NASDAQ running the electronic stock market there, and eventually led him to Katsuyama and the other main characters throughout this book. This led to the opening of their own market at IEX. (IEX is a dark pool)
  • “If Goldman Sachs was willing to acknowledge to investors that this new market was the best chance for fairness and stability, the other banks would be pressured to follow. The more orderes that flowed onto IEX, the better the experience for the investors, and the harder it would be for the banks to evade this new, fair market”
  • IEX represented a choice and made the point that the market which had become overly complicated might be understood by not being rigged in someones favor, all it needed was for investors to take responsibility for understanding it. The backbone of the market is investors coming together to trade. Without that backbone, there would be no market. I am moving closer to the end of the book, and I find it really interesting how everything is starting to tie together, and things are making more sense. I think it is fascinating the roles each individual plays, and I would like to do more research to find out how lasting this agreement was, and look into more of the effects that this has had, especially the effects on the average joe. The U.S financial system has experienced many changes, and a lot of these changes are shown in this book. I would be curious to compare and contrast these changes in more detail. The costs and benefits of each, and develop an opinion about what system is more successful and should be used. I am really glad that I picked this subject and book for my project, because this entire subject was unknown to me, and I love learning more about it, and its effects. I am wondering how I will present my project in class without making it seem boring and using to much jargon and technical terms.

Chapter Six, pages 151-192

  • Chapter Six, appropriately titled,”How To Take Billions From Wall Street”, focuses on IEX(a dark pool) and the introduction of a new character, Don Bollerman, and Puzzle Masters, who decoded different order types as subsequently led to a greater understanding of HFT, dark pools, and the “hidden passages and trapdoors” that existed.
  • “Out there, where the twin symbols of American capitalism once loomed, reduced in a few hours to a blizzard of office memos and a ruin. Out there, where idealism was either a ruse or a species of stupidity, and where the people who basle needed them to succeed hadn’t the faintest idea of their existence”
  • I think one thing is interesting is the meeting that was explained, where the group was split between people who wanted to pick a fight with the biggest wall street banks and the people who thought it was insane to pick that fight. I am curious to see what will eventually happen in terms of that, will they pick the fight or not. I predict that they will pick that fight because up until this point, they have done all they can to stop the corruption and even the playing field in the market, and I can’t imagine them stopping now. Also, another thing I find interesting is the recurring theme of how important the instances in the book are, however, the world outside of Wall Street; and part of Wall Street, is unaware of what is happening. The purpose of the entire book is to draw the picture of the new stock market. I wonder how things would’ve played off differently if the outside world was aware of what was happening, and I can only begin to imagine the political implications. I think this chapter was especially important because it reiterated the fact of how naive the outside world is, and I would be interested to learn how naive the outside world is still. I know the majority of my peers couldn’t care less about Wall Street and the stock market and I find that interesting because the innocence of the outside world is one of the major themes in this book.

Quarter One Reflection

  1. What have you learned about reading? What have you learned about writing analysis & argument?  How has your approach to reading & writing changed overall? I have learned to be more critical about the structure of what is written, as well as use that structure to base the structure of my response on. Also, I’ve learned a lot about writing thesis statements and how to structure my writing.
  2. What questions do you still have? I want to know how I can improve and how my essays look compared to the higher scoring essays from the AP exam. I am still pretty confused about some of the vocabulary that is used in the essays and the vocabulary used to describe the writing.
  3. With what types of reading & writing would you like more practice? Analyzing the rhetoric choices made by authors and coming up with an entire essay off of one word being used instead of another is still crazy to me, and I’d like to understand and improve my analytical writing more.
  4. Based on 1-3, what are 2-3 goals you have to make improvement moving forward? I want to score more in the 7-8 range, instead of the 6-7 range I am in now. I need to work on word choice also.