The Trump Effect

trump

The greatest thing the United States of America ever accomplished was managing to convince its citizens that they live in a country ruled by democracy and freedom. We’re only free to live our lives within the limitations of the government – which apparently doesn’t include the right to decline health insurance, the right to put what we want in our bodies, or the right to even spend our own money the way we want, among MANY other things. But the worst illusion currently going on in this country is the idea that the vote of the American citizen matters at all during elections. Your vote only matters by choosing which greedy, corrupt, hypocritical liar will do less damage to our country during the next 4-8 years. But in this current campaign cycle, a new ideology has arisen that might actually make a difference, and that might actually make America great again.

govt

The typical brainwashed uninformed American voter will write off Donald Trump as some crazy, racist, sexist lunatic who is only craving attention with his run at the 2016 Republican presidential nomination. The fact of the matter, and what most people need to actually think through, is not the things that Trump is saying, but the mindset behind them. For the first time maybe ever, we have a political candidate who doesn’t care about money or fame because he has that already. He is speaking his mind and telling the American people what he truly believes in. Whether you agree with his stances or not, you should at least be able to respect that this is something new and refreshing in politics that we have not seen in a long, long time, if ever.

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Remember what I said at the beginning of this blog: we don’t live in a free country and that is not going to change even if Trump is President. Many of his seemingly outlandish ideas would never get past Congress or the other dictatorial corporate-funded monstrosities that make up the government. However, voting and supporting a candidate that doesn’t care what other people think about him, and will tell you what he stands for without you having to worry that he is just telling you what you want to hear, would be a major step in the right direction towards making America great again.

corruption

This isn’t a blog about Donald Trump, it’s a blog about the Trump effect. I hate politics and I hate how government corruption has poisoned this country. We need somebody to stand up and tell people what they believe in regardless of the backlash that it is going to cause. So if you still think your vote matters, do something smart with your life and don’t vote all of the hypocritical frauds out there that will just tell you what you want to here until they are elected, at which point they will do the exact opposite. Vote for someone who is passionate about what they believe in and will do their best to make that happen, regardless of whether or not it “sounds crazy” or isn’t “the popular decision.”

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Reaction to the Celtics 2015 Draft

nba draft

It has been 24 hours since 2015 NBA draft, and the mood surrounding the Celtics performance has not improved much from the initial reactions, which were not good. Many people expected the Celtics utilize the four picks that they had in this year’s draft to try and trade up, but were unable to do a deal. Boston offered as many as 6 picks to the Hornets for the #9 pick and were still turned down. Therefore, they went ahead and used those selections, so time to take a look at who these guys are.

16th overall pick: Terry Rozier, Guard from Louisville

terry rozier

Terry Rozier is a 6’1″ point guard out of Louisville who averaged 17 pts / 6 reb / 3 ast / 2 stls for the Cardinals during his sophomore season last year. This pick is being heavily criticized from just about everyone, not because he is necessarily a bad player to choose at #16, but because the pick doesn’t make any sense based on what the Celtics need. Rozier is a lockdown defender and mediocre shooter, and if that sounds familiar its because that description also fits Avery Bradley and Marcus Smart. One theory that I have heard is that the Celtics think Rozier can be the same player as Smart, in which case Smart can be traded because he has a higher overall value as the #6 pick from last year. Regardless, I would have liked to see a forward such as Bobby Portis, Sam Dekker, or Montrezl Harrell get drafted in that spot to help fill the rebounding need.

28th overall pick: R.J. Hunter, Guard from Georgia State

RJ hunter

The only reason that most people know R.J. Hunter is for the game-winning three pointer he hit in the NCAA tournament to upset Baylor. Hunter does have good shooting abilities, but again this pick is questionable because the Celtics don’t need another guard. The positive about this pick is that least it’s offensive guard and not a 4th Rozier/Smart/Bradley. This pick does have better value than Rozier did at 16, and will be easier to use in any trade packages going forward into free agency.

33rd overall pick: Jordan Mickey, forward from LSU

This was probably the Celtics best pick of the draft. Jordan Mickey is a 6’8″ shot-blocking forward that can help the Celtics in the front court and has great value as a second round draft pick, since they won’t have to pay him the rookie contract that first rounders get. Of course, he is just as likely to be packaged in a trade as anyone else, but will probably be the most useful of the four picks if the Celtics decide to sign him.

45th overall pick: Marcus Thornton, guard from William & Mary

thornton

It really didn’t matter who the Celtics picked here. Once you get this far down in the draft, the expectations are pretty low. Thornton will amount to a role player at the best.

It will definitely be interesting to see what the Celtics do in free agency, but overall it wasn’t the strongest draft so the off-season is not off to the greatest start.

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Is Love a Mental Illness?

love mental illness

One of the most fascinating phenomenons that I’ve witnessed throughout my lifetime is how two nearly identical biological processes are looked upon with nearly polar opposite attitudes. There is, in fact, very little difference scientifically between falling in love and becoming addicted to drugs. In both cases, we experience a dopamine rush when we are involved with the source, and in both cases we can go through withdrawals without it. In both cases, there is great happiness at first, but in both cases it becomes impossible to replicate that initial joy over time. Our brains become biologically dependent on the source, and less dopamine is produced naturally after exposure to the source. In each case, our brains are physically distorted to the reality – whether that is hallucinations in the case of a drug addiction or the inability to see the flaws in someone you love.

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So what is the difference? The difference is that people wrongly mistake love as some magical force that can’t be explained. The reality that love is simply an obsession with another person, and more accurately the obsession of a feeling of euphoria, just like doing drugs. Falling in love has the exact same effect on the brain as smoking cocaine. Some people might argue that drugs have more dangerous side effects. Although there is no direct way to measure this, one could also argue that there have been thousands if not millions of deaths caused directly or indirectly by relationships that simply started as “falling in love.” There is a reason that the first murder suspect in any case is always the significant other. Relationships can be equally as dangerous as drug addictions. The latter is only portrayed as worse because we can physically see the direct negative effects that happen to the person. How is drug rehabilitation any worse than marriage counseling? They are both trying to solve a problem stemming from inappropriate treatment of something that once gave them happiness.

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The question in the title of this blog is ultimately raised because we consider those who struggle with obsessions or addictions to have a mental illness. We say that they don’t think in a healthy way, they don’t think or act the way they are supposed to. So is love a mental illness? It certainly prevents people from being able to think rationally and logically, and leads to an obsession that becomes a biological dependence. The case can certainly be made. Consider the following quote: “The symptoms of love are many and varied. What’s intriguing is that if we list them- for example, preoccupation with the loved one, tearfulness, euphoria- and check them against accepted diagnostic criteria for mental illness, we find that most ‘lovers’ qualify for diagnoses of obsessional illness, depression or manic depression. And this is no superficial relationship. Neurochemical and brain scanning investigations have shown a considerable overlap between ‘the brain in love’ and ‘the brain in the throes of mental illness’”.

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This topic has interested me from a personal standpoint because I am fascinated with how the brain works. I have witnessed right before my very eyes how people in love change their behavior very dramatically, and often are unable to think logically or admit that their partner is anything less than perfect. It truly does look like an obsession from an objective perspective, and unfortunately I’ve seen it become an unhealthy one. I think people need to be extremely cautious entering relationships because they can be overpowering and very dangerous, and the reality is that addiction is not a choice — you can become biologically dependent on someone else.

This is just scratching the surface of the scientific research that has been done on this study. More information can be found in the links below.

http://www.therooster.com/blog/high-love-why-falling-love-doing-cocaine

http://www.cnn.com/CNN/Programs/anderson.cooper.360/blog/2006/02/love-is-many-splendoredmental-illness.html

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-joint-adventures-well-educated-couples/201208/falling-in-love-is-smoking-crack-cocaine

http://www.theguardian.com/science/2010/oct/13/love-drug-pain-relief-cocaine

https://books.google.com/books?id=Cs2whGXTWeYC&pg=PA217&lpg=PA217&dq=similarities+between+love+and+drugs&source=bl&ots=rKp7pv537V&sig=dnoJrcl7Gp0ZGYzKGoKhVD_LCTw&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0CDAQ6AEwAmoVChMIy9WP9eSSxgIVyBaSCh3EfAcD#v=onepage&q=similarities%20between%20love%20and%20drugs&f=false

http://www.franktallis.com/lovesick.htm

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Reflecting on One Year in the Real World

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On June 9th, 2015, I hit a milestone as officially one year had passed since my first day of working full time in the real world. I’ve learned a monumental amount of things since then, but looking back on the past year not everything went quite how I expected it to. The first and arguably biggest transition I had to make was my sleep schedule. I quickly realized that it was impossible me to make the 5 hour shift of getting up at 11 am on average to getting up at 6 am every morning during the week, which is why I learned to become a coffee person. Another disappointing realization of having to get up that early was also having to go to bed much earlier, meaning that I couldn’t stay up to watch most sports games that started later than 8:00 PM unless I wanted to be extra tired the next day. Apart from these two things, I actually enjoy the work schedule better than the college schedule. I am very much a routine oriented person, so it was very easy for me to get into the routine of 9-5 each day during the week and then having the weekends off.

I enjoy having an important job and being treated as a professional each day, and it is refreshing to be respected as a member of the corporate world rather than being looked down upon as a college kid who just wants to party. I very much love the freedom and indepedence that comes with working in a corporate environment. No one is checking to make sure you worked exactly 8 hours or looking to see if you took a long lunch break. There is a clear understanding that you have responsibilities that need to get done, and no one is going to tell you what you need to do all the time. It’s your responsibility to ask questions or seek help, and to figure out how you can be best that you can within your position. There are annual evaluations, but you’re not taking tests and getting graded like in college. The challenging part is that work is much harder than what you learn in college. There is a big learning curve, especially in the first year, and it takes a lot of patience to be able to succeed. I expected this coming in, but was anticipating more of a linear curve of consistent improvement. For me, it felt more like I sucked during the first 3-4 months and then all of a sudden things just start clicking around 5-6 months and you make a dramatic improvement.

As for Blue Cross Blue Shield in particular, I think I am very fortunate to be able to work at this company. I realize that the health insurance industry is always looked on as a scapegoat for the recent struggles with health costs, but I really do get the impression that leadership at this company is doing the best they can to improve the situation. I’m sure they are not perfect, but examples like the Alternative Quality Contract which incents providers based on quality rather than quantity have been proven to slow down costs and that is a concept unique to this company. BCBSMA is not afraid to address its weaknesses either. CEO Andrew Dreyfus has said on more than one occasion that we need to adopt more of a retail model when it comes to helping our members. He realizes that the company is still sending out a ridiculous amount of paper statements as opposed to digital, and how confusing those statements can be, and has launched initiatives to try to fix that. This isn’t a criticism of the people who work in those areas, but rather a representation that the health care industry as a whole is way behind when it comes to some important areas of the business. It has been fascinating to see how a health insurance company operates from an internal perspective, and also how hard it is to fix a system that is complicated beyond belief.

From an employee’s perspective, I think BCBSMA is great company for people to work for. One example of this was our recent move from Landmark Center in the Fenway area to 101 Huntington in the Prudential Center. This was a huge upgrade for everyone who worked there and, in addition to some long term cost savings, was exectured primarily to give employees a better working environment. The cafeteria has many more options and emphasizes health eating. The cube walls are lower to encourage more interaction among coworkers. There is natural light and windows everywhere to create a positive environment. On top of all of that, employees have access to over 50 discounts for stores in the prudential center in addition to $275 per month of transportation reimbursement, which is even more convenient in a location that is easily accessible by public transportation. Work life balance is an important part to everyone as well, which I witnessed when the company gave us an extra 2 days off around the holidays in December and frequently lets us out early the day before a holiday or holiday weekend.

Finally, I think I work in the best department in the company, Actuarial and Analytic Services. During my first year, I have had the opportunity to gain exposure to several different areas of the comapny, which has made me appreciate my department even more. Nearly everyone is in their 20s or 30s, and is always very nice and very helpful at all times. It is such a hardworking yet positive atmosphere and has really impressed me since I’ve been there. We often have several social events during each month and the department is very supportive by organizing wedding showers or baby showers during work to celebrate major life accomplishments for its employees. Even when I was an intern, everyone was very nice and very helpful to me and I felt like I was treated just like a full time employee. People in other departments were amazed when I described some of the things that the actuarial department does for fun. Having a group made of young, motivated, hard-working people definitely creates a positive atmosphere both inside and outside of work.

Overall, it has been a very challenging but very rewarding experience during my first year working in the real world at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts. I look forward to gaining more experience and being even better during my second year and for years to come.

Jeff

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Massachusetts’ Under-the-Radar Epidemic

opiod

It’s almost hard to believe that this situation can be described as “under-the-radar”, despite Governor Deval Patrick declaring a state of emergency in March of 2014. A little over a year later, things have only gotten worse in Massachusetts and parts of New England. The problem is that very few people want to talk about it or acknowledge what is happening, but as the situation evolves from state of emergency to epidemic, it’s time to address the very real, very scary, and very powerful effects of heroin addiction.

There were 185 recorded deaths from heroin overdoses in Massachusetts from November 2013 through February 2014, which prompted the governor to call a state of emergency the following month. These statistics do not even reflect the state’s three biggest cities – Worcester, Boston, and Springfield – which track their own statistics separately. This number also includes only police reported situations, and is therefore likely undercounted. After a decline during the summer, reported heroin overdoses reached record rates at the end of the year, including a mind-blowing 114 in December alone. This brought the 2014 total to nearly 1000 deaths in the state of Massachusetts, leaving many experts who work in substance abuse programs feeling shocked and overwhelmed. The first 3 months of 2015 have already seen 217 suspected overdoses in the state.

It is worth noting at this point what exactly makes heroin so deadly. The brain has opiate receptors, which are meant for endorphins that are produced naturally by the body. Heroin’s main ingedient is morphine, which acts in the same way as endorphins but is much more powerful and can overload the brain’s opiate receptors. In addition, this leads to a release of dopamine which is what causes the sensation of feeling pleasure. Heroin is highly addictive, so the user develops a tolerance very quickly and needs stronger doses. Eventually, the body cannot keep up with the amount of heroin in its system which leads to overdosing and eventually death. Matters become more complicated when heroin that is being manufactured is not strictly heroin. One of the main reasons behind the recent spike in deaths was the discovery that heroin was being laced with Fentanyl, a pain killer 100 times more powerful than morphine.

After Patrick declared the state of emergency, the primary focus was on training all police on how to administer Narcan, a drug that reverses the effects of opiate overdoses by blocking the opiate receptors in the brain. Narcan has been responsible for saving hundreds of lives during the past year. The problem is that now heroin is killing people within minutes instead of hours, partly due to the fact that it is being laced with other substances such as Fentanyl. Newly elected governor Charlie Baker has vowed to make the opiate crisis one of his primary focuses as governor of Massachusetts. Politicians, police, and medical experts in the state have been working tirelessly to combat this problem. The problem remaining is not that people aren’t aware of it or that those in charge aren’t doing enough, it’s the perception from everyday people that doing the most harm.

What many people don’t realize is that the opiate addiction crisis is now invading all areas of society. It is not just subdued in a poor area where homeless people or those living in poverty are the only ones addicted. It is affecting young and old, lower middle and upper class, and very likely someone in your own neighborhood. I’ve personally known and worked with someone who died from a heroin overdose in my town, and I’ve talked to others that are recovering heroin addicts. These people are just as normal as the ones who are not addicted, but they are too ashamed or scared to ask for help. They are afraid of the stigma that comes with drug addiction.

It’s very easy to get people to support something like cancer research, but heroin and opiate addiction is just as much of a real, deadly disease and should be treated with the same type of urgency. It is not only a problem in Massachusetts, either. I would urge everyone to do their part in spreading awareness, and to do so before this monster affects someone in your personal life, not after.

Sources:

https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2015/01/29/new-surge-heroin-overdoses-puzzles-mass-health-workers/0vKpDx3UsPUP5D6GYKJtLM/story.html

http://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/regionals/south/2015/04/11/boston-suburbs-heroin-addiction-continues-exact-its-deathly-toll/YMqed98W8NMre9C4PQ07nN/story.html

http://www.necn.com/news/new-england/More-Than-200-Heroin-Overdoses-in-Massachusetts-Already-This-Year-298363151.html

http://dailyfreepress.com/2015/02/05/massachusetts-sees-spike-in-heroin-overdoses-deaths/

http://www.metrowestdailynews.com/article/20150117/NEWS/150116809

http://www.masslive.com/politics/index.ssf/2015/01/5_priorities_of_massachusetts.html#2

http://www.masslive.com/news/index.ssf/2014/12/mass_state_police_looking_for.html

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The Trials and Tribulations of the MBTA

mbta

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) was formed in 1964, and fifty-one years later it has devolved into one of the biggest embarassments of an organization in the country. Although the problems with the MBTA were exposed literally overnight during a February blizzard, the real issues with the company have been going on for much longer and there is no end in sight.

I began riding the Commuter Rail and Subway on a monthly basis beginning in July of 2014. I had only occasionally ridden it before then. It certainly did not take long for me to realize how bad the system was. Only a few weeks into July the train was late enough times for me to start seriously questioning what was going on. During that summer I would estimate that the train was “on time” (defined as 5 minutes late or less) maybe two thirds of the time. It was exactly on time zero times. ZERO. There are only two explanations for a train always being late. The first is the incompetence of those who manage and drive the trains. The second is the unrealistic schedule put out by the MBTA. Both of these were responsible for the late trains, and both are unacceptable, although incompetence was far more frequent than dishonesty.

I also have to address the parking situation before moving on. It is the year 2015 and this is how the parking works: You need to fold up four one dollars bills into tinally crumpled up papers and manually slide them into the corresponding number in a metal box in order to pay for your parking. Granted, this is slowly becoming more modern but the fact that some people still have to do this is absurd. I also need to call out the parking attendants who don’t even always check to see if everyone’s paid, and the times they do check are during the winter when you can’t see the numbers so they give you a ticket. And while they’re giving you a ticket for a parking number that you can’t see, they’re ignoring the illegally parked cars on the road of the entrance to the parking lot. These cars are illegally parked because there’s not enough spaces, also the parking attendants fault for not clearing out snow that is covering 25% of the spaces. Anyway, moving on.

On top of the trains always being delayed was the poor communication as to what in the world was happening. The explanations were always vague (“signal problem” was a popular copout) or there were no explanations at all. They couldn’t even manage to do the text alerts correctly, at one point sending out the complete wrong information and having to send a follow text to clarify the confusion. The summer finally ends, and what better way to kick off the Fall than to send out monthly September passes to everyone that didn’t even work? That’s exactly what happened that September, and before we finally got our new ones there had to be additional workers at every T stop with automatic doors which only wasted more time and resources.

Before we get into the major problems, I just have to throw out some more pathetic instances to get them out of the way. Multiple times the train has pulled up past the platform and had to back up, one time even missing the station entirely. The speakers on the trains are so unbearably loud, and the 50% of the time that they actually are announcing the stops, they announce the wrong schedule. Furthermore, the conductors are screaming out what the stops are as the automatic voice on the speakers are talking causing even more confusion. The heat and electricity have failed multiple times. One time the train was delayed so late, that by the time it got to the second to last stop everyone had to get out and wait for the next train because the conductor couldn’t work overtime….even though there was ONE MORE STOP. Sometimes they won’t open all of the doors and fail to tell anyone so that people are left waiting to get on the train, and sometimes they don’t even use all the cars on the train leading to overcrowding. Anyway, these issues pale into comparison to what’s coming next.

Now we have the blizzards. A record amount of snowfall quite literally beat down the MBTA so badly it temporarilty shut down. I will take this moment to say that the MBTA shutting down for a day is they only good decision they have made so far, because it only got much worse once they were up and partially running again. Following the storms, the MBTA produced a modified schedule that failed to get the job done. There were only a couple rush hour trains in the morning that led to massive overcrowding and even more delays. Cancellation after cancellation on top of the already expected out of service trains finally led to the GM announcing her resignation and governor Charlie Baker calling for immediate change. Two weeks after the last storm, the trains were in perfectly good shape but they refused to put them all back in service until the last week in March, which led to overcrowded and delayed trains all the way into April.

By now you can clearly see what a disaster this organization is. However, we are just getting started. An investigation was launched into how the MBTA was being managed and the news only gets worse. The MBTA kept claiming that they were in too much debt and couldn’t afford to fix the trains or get better equipment. While this is true, it is also true that they didn’t spend $2.3 billion of their budget over the last five years for no apparent reason. They also pay their employees $150,000 a year on average, the same employees that take 12 weeks off during the year and decided to not show up when they were needed most during the storms. But wait, the MBTA felt really sorry for us so they decided to offer everyone a full refund! NOPE JUST KIDDING. They offered 15% off the month of May and one free day that wasn’t even advertised so nobody know about it.

So where are we now? Very, very far from satisfied. The MBTA debacle is no one person’s fault, but at the same time every single part of that organization deserves some blame, from the lowly workers whose only job is to open a door and they can’t even do that right sometimes, to Keolis the company in charge of running the MBTA. Not a single person associated with this organization should be proud of their job. As revealed during the investigation, it is constant culture of incompetence and indifference that has made this organization as bad at as it is. Over in Japan they have trains running at 150 mph quickly and efficiently, while here in Boston the train system has single-handedly damaged the motivation and economy of one of the country’s greatest cities. The winter is over but the problem is not. Fortunately, there are people who recognize that and will not forget the damage that was done. Please join me in sharing this lawsuit https://www.mbtaclassaction.com/.

Tomorrow I will wake up and take the train to work. There will be a 50% chance that the train will either not to get to Boston in time or not get home to Franklin in time. I, along with my fellow riders, don’t deserve to be treated this way and I will not rest until justice is served. Please help spread awareness and keep this issue in the news so the hard-working people of Boston can get the respect they deserve.

Sincerely,

A tormented train passenger

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Movie Review: The Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)

Age of Ultron is the sequel to Marvel’s The Avengers (2012) and features the same cast of superheroes that starred in the original. Iron Man (Robert Downey, jr.), the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Black Widow (Scarlett Johanssen), and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) are forced to team up once again after the peacekeeping mission Ultron decides the best method for peace is to eliminate the Avengers. Two new characters, Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olson), are introduced in this movie as well and play a key role.

avengers

Similar to the first Avengers movie, I thought the sequel did a fantastic job of interjecting comedy at key moments throughout the film. It seemed like anytime things were getting a bit too serious or intense, there would be a quick one-liner thrown in to lighten the mood. I also thought the premise of this movie was very interesting. Both sides were ultimately fighting for peace, something that everyone could agree is a good cause, but had two very distinct ways of going about it. One of my favorite lines was when Ultron said “Why do humans think order and chaos are opposites?” This idea that there will always be war needed in order to keep peace is an interesting theme throughout the movie. My only complaints about this movie was that it was a little longer than necessary, and some of the action scenes seemed drag on for awhile. Other than that, I think this will be one of the best movies of 2015.

FINAL RATING: 8.5 / 10

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