# Linear Relationships

The Kindle can tell you how many minutes is left in the book you’re reading based on how fast you read. It knows how quickly you turn the page, and can thus assume how many words you can read in a minute.

The average secondary school student can read 350 words per minute.

Here is the relationship on a table of values:

t (minutes)     W (words)

1                              350
2                             650
3                             950
4                             1250

The equation is W = 300t + 50

Here the graph of this equation:

Per each minute spent reading, the average high school student can read 350 words. This relationship is shown in the equation (W, words read, and t, time spent in minutes) W = 300t +50.

# Introduction Writing Assignment

(I chose to do the assignment on the scene in Me and Earl and the Dying Girl at 21:06 – 24:05: Greg teaches Rachel how to end an annoying conversation,  but due to YouTube’s incompetence, I could not find the exact scene. I have hyperlinked the movie though.)

I own the movie-poster version of the novel Me and Earl and the Dying Girl. My mom bought it for me way back in June 2015, probably because I did really well on a test. That was around the time where I was under a ridiculous amount of pressure I had taken on myself, and the consequences were fairly visible. In exchange for getting mostly A’s on that last report card and barely passing a piano exam, I had dark circles under my eyes, paler skin than usual, and a completely faked air of importance, because I was “busy”. I paid for that about a week later, with a mind-blowing headache as the result of side effects from a meningitis vaccination, a flu that was going around, and severe stress. It was a time in my life where I refused to sit down and relax, to calm myself, let alone sit down and read a novel. I had enough books I needed to read, anyway – no way was I going to read another YA novel about bad things happening to philosophical teens who “aren’t like everyone else” (see, also, and this thing). Me and Earl and the Dying Girl was not that kind of book – it was brutally honest, and the protagonist was a bit of a narcissist, not a hero by any means.

Once I finished the book, it went back on my shelf. It never became a favourite of mine, but I had always wanted to watch the movie. It had been a hit at Sundance, an indie film for the ages, and I’m a sucker for a bizarre film. Plus, for all I knew, it was one of those rare movies that was better than the book. So, about a week ago, upon finding myself some rare free time, I found the movie online (unfortunately, the film has been removed from online pirating websites – but you can still rent it here) and watched the whole thing, until the earliest hours of a Sunday. Sitting in bed in my pyjamas, the charger stretching across the bed to the nearest extension cord, I remembered how impactful and raw the story really is. It’s gritty: the humour can get dark or just plain silly, but then you feel bad for laughing.

It’s mostly about a teen, Greg, who attempts to befriend a long-time classmate, Rachel, upon the urging from his mother after Rachel is diagnosed with leukemia. Their relationship is cold and forced, akin to one of two children who are forced to play together while their parents are downstairs, sipping white wine and eating fancy cheeses. But the scene in question, the one that made me fall in love with this under-budgeted, indie film with stop motion-and-papier Mache scenes, sparks their profound friendship in the weirdest of ways. Greg teaches Rachel how to get out of annoying conversations by faking a seizure, and when Rachel refuses to “practice”, he fakes being dead. He is then scolded by a poster of Hugh Jackman (the funniest monologue in the whole movie, if you ask me), and when Greg starts to apologize for telling the Dying Girl to pretend to die, she pretends to have a seizure. Greg exclaims “Yes! Exactly like that!” and they laugh. End of scene, but the beginning of my obsession with the film.

I love the scene so much because it’s a beginning, the start of something brilliant an eighth of the way in. It shows how Rachel is a character outside of Greg’s view. Prior to this scene, we found her frigid, sarcastic, and unwilling to open up to Greg’s terrible attempts at friendship. We had known her as the product of high school and cancer, but this scene was pivotal in her development to the audience. After this scene, a climax of sorts, Rachel becomes real. We grow to love her as a character, her relationships with Greg and Earl, and that’s what makes the scenes of her treatment so heartbreaking. It also resonates with me, in deeply personal ways that I have tried to explain before. It’s clearly the beginning of a friendship – heck, it directly precedes the screen-card “The Part Where Rachel and I Actually Become Friends” – but it was hard won. It took Greg this long to gain Rachel’s trust, and even if she would say otherwise, Rachel secretly wanted to open up to Greg. However, the scene is short. They share laughter and pure bliss in a single moment, and from then on, their friendship is relatively solid. It shows how hard it takes to get to the tipping point of a relationship, but it’s so easy to go over the edge and care for a person with every ounce of your heart. And it’s not a romantic relationship, which is so refreshing to say in a movie about teenagers. Greg outright denies any sexual tension between them, and Rachel is too proud to fall for her (possibly) best friend.

I think the reason I love Me and Earl and the Dying Girl so much is because it accurately depicts what it’s like to be a teenager, and I encountered the story for the first time at a very stressful point in my life. I later watched the movie during a period where I was still struggling through my identity as a high-schooler. I admit, I still have fears about growing up and taking on more responsibility, but Me and Earl and the Dying Girl reminded me that, no matter how difficult or crappy life gets, there’s always friends, people who care about you, and good times. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl has also influenced the type of stories I write and it nurtured my love for filmmaking, which laid dormant for so many years. Maybe it’s the ~inspiration~ that comes after watching a film centered around a certain activity that almost always flickers out after a couple weeks, but Me and Earl and the Dying Girl has become very influential in my life as a ninth-grader, simply because it accurately describes what it’s like to be a teenager in the 21st century. It’s probably one of my favourite books, and I think if I were to read the novel again, it would become a favourite story of mine. Nonetheless, I will try to remember to stay calm when times get tough, don’t eat weird soup, and if I’m feeling spectacularly awkward, fake going into a seizure. Or making a stupid joke. Apparently that works.

# Cancer Project

I feel like this assigned project is very relevant today, this week. Initially, we were studying DNA and genetic mutations in Science class, and related diseases. The most prominent harmful genetic mutation is cancer, in all its forms. We were told to do a project about it, on whatever branch that you can write a report on cancer about. Mine was initially going to be from a statistical, scientific point of view. I would rattle off stats and facts, and somehow link them together using what some people call my “special writing skills”. But after hearing of so many of the world’s cherished be taken by cancer, I can’t help but feel emotional.

I’ve never been worried about getting cancer. I’ve had relatives who’ve been victims of it, of course. Approximately 40% of people will be diagnosed in their lifetimes, and almost 100% will be undoubtedly affected. My uncle died of mesothelioma, the decay of the protective tissue in the lungs. However, it was asbestos-induced, so I would not inherit it unless I worked unsafely in decade-old shipyards. My grandfather, on the other side of the family, had pancreatic cancer, one of the most common cancers in the world. However, it is most common in men and normally doesn’t arise until after the age of 65. My father had basal cell carcinoma on his ear, but it was exterior and could not spread. He and I are both ridiculously pale (blame the Scottish heritage), so it was basically just a sunburn that turned into a scab that wouldn’t go away. The doctors cut it off (in no rush, I can be sure of that), replaced some of the tissue with his other ear, and that was the end of it. My dad had to wear a giant bandage over his ear for a week, and when he took them off, it was pretty disgusting (I found it fascinating though – I’ve never gone queasy around blood and guts), but those were the only side effects. I’ve never witnessed anyone suffer from cancer, and as far as I was concerned before conducting my research, I never would. But I fear I should.

I live in Canada, North America. Here, the most common cancer is that of the breast. It is also the number one killer of women. However, I do not have any history of this horrible disease, so I like to think I’m fairly safe. But on the other hand, I live in North America, where smoking, alcohol, and obesity runs amok. Coincidentally enough, smoking, alcohol, and obesity are three of the main causes of cancer. Tobacco use has long been warned against, but lung cancer is still on the rise. Smoking itself has decreased, but the dangers of second-hand smoking has only just been recently realized, and as a high school student living in an urban area, smoke is all around. I’d rather not get into obesity, but most medical experts agree that a good exercise regimen and a balanced diet will greatly reduce the risk of getting cancer. Statistics can also show that 1/3 of deaths by cancer are directly linked to obesity and lack of exercise.

I am not, however, incredibly tempted by alcohol. Of course there are underage drinkers, and most adults I know enjoy a couple glasses of wine, but while liver cancer remains one of the top global killers, it is not in North America. The East-Asian country of Mongolia has the highest rates of liver cancer in the world, at approximately 94 out of every 100,000 people dying of it every year. This is mostly blamed on many cases of Hepatitis B and C, and lots of alcohol. China is also the most common place you will find stomach cancers, due to a large portion of their diet being salty, and the food and water that is consumed is, more often than not, contaminated. Lung cancer follows not far behind. If you go down even more south, in South-East Africa, cervical cancer is most plentiful. By comparison, there are hardly any cases in America due to the invention of the cheap and convenient Pap test, but this routine exam is not available in developing countries. But this is not an unique case in third-world nations – lack of resources is, contrary to popular opinion, the number one reason that diseases, that can be easily captured and cured here, are so plentiful there. I’ve seen it for myself, and the doctors there are much more concerned with malaria and HIV than with cancer, and rightfully so.

A very common cancer in North America is called melanoma, also known as skin cancer. This normally comes from prolonged exposure to radiation and UV rays. UV rays come from tanning beds and the sun itself, and when you live in a culture that loves the beach and the summer (thanks to the Beach Boys and movies from the 1970s), melanoma is increasingly common. In the West, we have a suspicious lack of genetic defense to the sun. It rains so much here that our skin is allowed to be fair, but when the clouds are grey for so long, if the sun comes out, we are outside and bathing in it. At least, I do that. And that’s why me, someone with relatively no genetic history of cancer, am at risk. I mentioned previously I am pale, and if I neglect to put on sunscreen and wear a hat, I may become one of those 14.5 million people who live with cancer. I am constantly reminded about my risk from one of my good friends, whose father died of severe melanoma.

But my case is not rare. I didn’t have to do very much digging to effectively learn that of course I’m prone to cancer, and I highly doubt you do either. And with recent reminders of how deadly a disease cancer is, I don’t believe much more motivation is needed. The number of people diagnosed with cancer is expected to rise to 19 million by 2024, but we can do a part in preventing that by educating ourselves. A very small portion of cancers are inherited, with the number one killers caused by tobacco, alcohol, living an unhealthy lifestyle, and UV ray exposure. The death rates have been generally on the decline, but rates of certain types of cancer have stabilized, if not increased. People are living longer, therefore being more prone to cancer, but there may just be an end in sight. We wish for a cure, but it is not that simple. There are many types of cancer and cancer cells are unpredictable. Radiation and chemotherapy remain very dangerous, but we do have cures to certain types. Scientists are hard at work learning how to fight our own cells, but we can help too, by donating or just keeping yourself healthy and learning what your risk is. There are many treatments for cancer, but the best is early detection. And in a time where have we already lost so many, you might as well start learning.

In memory and dedicated to

David Bowie, Alan Rickman, and all the others who have perished. You are not another statistic, not another figure on a page. You are people, and are missed.

SOURCES:

www.cancer.org/cancer/cancercauses

www.globalcancermap.com

# The Life of a Genetic Mutation

MUTATION STORY: LEUKODYSTROPHIES

PART 1: The Story

My name is Alexander, and I was born yesterday.

Technically, I go by many names – Metochromatic leukodystrophy, Krabbe, Canavan – but that doesn’t matter too much. I’m hungry, and I have a craving for the fatty, white matter of Abe’s brain and the nerve fiber inside.

I only got here because the cells messed up, and their wall, the myelin sheath, isn’t as protected as it should be. I’m not too sure why – neither are the doctors, to be fair – but it’s either because something went missing in Exon 16, in the GALC gene and sparked a premature STOP codon, the ARSA genes never showed up to the party, or some other mutation in the GFAP or ASPA genes. Either way, some amino acids got mixed up and all the cells got confused. There was a small, nearly undetectable system failure, and I was born. Created to eat away at this little boy’s brain, until he goes into a vegetative state and his brain stops firing neurons everywhere.

But there’s so much to do before that! I have to disrupt the electrical molecules in his brain, just enough so that they slow down a bit, and Abe’s muscles stop functioning properly. His parents won’t understand, and neither will the doctors, until they conduct a MRI. They’ll think it’s MS, until they see less white on the brain then there should be. They won’t see me though, and even if they do, Abe will be crying too much for them to care. He’s only a babe, yet so sensitive to sounds and lights. He’s not fascinated by them, like the other babies are – he’s scared, and they’re irritating them more than anything. But he’ll grow up a bit, and his parents won’t know that it was the father’s fault, but he couldn’t have known until the worst happens. Abe will be diagnosed with epilepsy, and as if that doesn’t worry Mr. and Mrs. Cooper enough, he’ll inhale his saliva and wake them to his desperate, rattled coughing.

Sometimes, I start to feel bad. Abe was a good newborn, didn’t cry too much and made the Cooper’s so irrevocably happy. Sure, his head was tilted a little bit backwards, but they didn’t care. He was theirs, and he was perfect. Until he wasn’t, of course. But a mutation’s got to eat.

Abe will live till about seven years old. He’ll attend kindergarten, but also the doctor’s office regularly. They’ll pump him full of medications to prevent the pain and control his muscles, but they won’t be able to get rid of me. I’ll keep eating until there’s nothing left, until the nerve fibres fall apart and there’s no longer any neurons telling his arms to move, his lungs to breathe.

The Cooper’s will cry once his heart stops beating. They’ll wish it took him faster, but only because his last words were “Mommy, it hurts”. They’ll ask “Why Abe?” every night before they go to bed, but it’s not up to me if it’s in the same house or not. He was so excited for school, and to learn how to write his name, even if his hands didn’t work like all the other’s kids. He couldn’t see too much, and the teacher had to wear a device around her neck, synced to the aid in his ear, just so he could hear her speak. She’ll be sad too, but the kids won’t understand. They won’t even be able to pronounce “leukodystrophy”.

The parents will also follow the debates about the “treatment” for me. Lawyers will argue about the ethics of it, whether they should be prolonging the life or attempting to save it. “Treatment”. As if I’m some bacteria, some virus. I’m just a genetic mutation.

But I can’t be sure, exactly. I was only born yesterday.

PART 2: The Making of the Mutation Story

1. What questions did you need to research in order to create your mutation story?
1. What does leukodystrophy mean? What does it really do?
2. What are the physical symptoms?
3. How is it caused? Is it inherited or spontaneous?
4. What are the treatments?
5. How can it arise in adulthood, while it is inherited by the parents and progresses quickly?
6. Is it fatal?
2. What new or familiar digital tools did you use while working on this project?
1. I used foundation and clinic sites for research rather than mostly Wikipedia.
2. I also used Wikipedia though, and only used information that was cited. Wikipedia is a handy resource.
3. What was the process you used to investigate this topic?
1. I Googled “leukodystrophy” and chose some sites that looked promising.
2. As I read through them, I searched any terms I did not know and any other questions I had.
4. How did you verify and cite the information you found?
1. Most of the information I got was from the sites that would normally be used as a source, as they were the sites of foundations and clinics that specialised in this particular mutation. Wikipedia cited these sources as well.
2. As for me citing them myself, the sources are at the bottom of this page.
5. How did the process of completing this challenge go? What could you have done better?
1. The assignment itself wasn’t necessarily difficult. I’m pretty good at writing stories and processing information, so that didn’t take very long, but I found I was worrying about the assignment because not much had been done up until Thursday. I probably shouldn’t have left it for so long, but the assignment did come during the busiest week of the semester.

SOURCES:

www.ninds.nig.gov/disorders/leukodystrophy/leukodystropjy.htm

www.ulf.org/what-is-leukodystrophy

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leukodystrophy

http://www.healthline.com/health/metachromatic-leukodystrophy#Long-TermOutlook6

# Composition Shape

Here is my composite shape. It is made up of a triangle and a semi-circle to create an ice-cream cone type shape. The calculations of area and perimeter are in the photo.

The Difference Between Area and Perimeter:

Perimeter is the total sum of the exterior of the shape, how much material you need to surround the shape. Area is the total sum of the interior of the shape, how much space it takes up.

# Cell Identification Lab

Image: Onion skin under a microscope at 4/0.1x magnification.

# Épisode 2 – Parker Parle – Le Noel : Peut-il être acheter?

Voici le deuxième épisode de mon podcast Parker Parle – Le Noel: Peut-il être acheter? où j’explique l’importance des cadeaux au temps de donner, pourquoi ça ce passé, et si c’est vraiment un mauvais chose.

Parker Parle est une baladodiffusion crée par Sara Parker, où vous pouvez “écoute aux opinions d’une adolescente des affaires des adultes.”