For science this year we were asked to develop our own independent project relating very broadly to the subject of sustainability. I decided to combine my love of animals with my new filmmaking skills to create a film about today’s zoos. I chose zoos, or more specifically, the noise levels in zoos and how they impact animals. I directed, filmed, produced, and edited the entire project. I used Final Cut Pro for the editing. This film was only one part of the school project.

After I completed the school project, I was encouraged to cut it down to submit to the WHYY Film festival. So here is the shorter version, without my solution included.


Voice Aloud Talent Showcase

My sister and I participated in the Voices Aloud talent showcase. It was organized as a fundraiser event for our theater group. I felt bad for Ariana because she was feeling really sick. The fist picture is of me and the second one is Ariana.  I sang “The Girls I Mean to Be” and Ariana sang “I Know Things Now“.  We both got an honorable mention.  I won professional headshots and she won drum lessons!

New Fish in the Sea: Part II

As you might recall, we recently got new guppies that we named Moby and Ishmael/Peridot/Ish/Perry, along with a cleaner shrimp named Sewey.

Unfortunately, it hasn’t quite worked out. As it turned out, Moby had worms. I’ll spare you the details, but basically this meant that the entire tank had to be disinfected. Long story short, we had to get rid of both fish and Sewey. Ariana and I were upset, but the fish store claimed that they would try to treat them. Still, we needed to start the ENTIRE tank over, and that is a process that takes weeks.

So now, we find ourselves back at square one. Again. It has been a long process, but the tank finally had the right balance of ammonia, nitrite and nitrate today to support fish. So, we went out to the fish store that received raving reviews online.

It was a really awesome store. A gigantic fluffy dog greeted us as soon as we walked through the door. We were allowed to pet him, and he was really soft. But, that wasn’t even the best part! The entire store was filled with breathtaking (albeit expensive) fish and corals. Some were brilliantly colored, and others were unbelievably big. They had eels, cleaner fish, crabs, and even a neon sting ray.

Since there were so many great options, Ariana and I were rather indecisive about which fish we wanted. There were some really beautiful fish that were very small and traveled in schools. (It was really cute when they got spooked– they all moved together.) They were a metallic, electric blue with red tails. They moved in a group, and it was really beautiful. The problem was that Ariana wanted fish that we could distinguish from each other, and all of the blue fish looked virtually identical. So, Ariana preferred some other fish called mollies that looked more different from each other. They were mostly a yellow-orange color with black spots. (They were a similar size to guppies.)

We wanted to get a mixture of the two typed of fish, but our mom advised us against it. If we did that, then we would had to have had about three of the blue fish, and that would have made them lonely, since they were school fish. In the end, we got three mollies and a cleaning fish called a cory.

We had a bit of a debate over what to name them, too. They cory had two antennae that looked like a mustache, so we decided to name him after someone with an impressive mustache: Salvador Dali. Also, the name Dali was perfect because Ariana and I love art.

The fish were a bit more tricky. We knew we wanted to name them after figures in music, science, and literature. We decided on Fermata for the fish that was mostly black, Suess for the one that was speckled, and Di Vinci for the one that was mostly orange. Here of some pictures of our fish in their new home:

We were on the news! Yay!

Our choir had the honor of singing while the Philadelphia Orchestra  played the National Anthem at the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia PA. It was a lot of fun to meet the Yannick Nézet-Séguin, the director of the orchestra! And we even made it on the news. If you look carefully you can see me and my sister!

New Fish in the Sea

This Christmas, Ariana and I received a “chi” fish tank. It was about 5 gallons and in the shape of a cube. It seemed more like a fountain than a fish tank- the filter was like a little waterfall with rocks. Still, we were delighted to get it. We’d only ever had a goldfish in the second grade, and it died after about one day! So, were determined to keep our new pets alive.

Throughout winter break, we began to condition the tank (we needed to establish a natural cycle to give the fish a better chance at survival). We filled the tank with a plastic log (it looked pretty real) and a hornwart plant. As it turned out, we got more than we bargained for when we bought the hornwart. We soon realized that the plant was filled with over a dozen snails!

At first, we didn’t think it would be a big deal. After all, the snails were barely visible at about 1 mm. What harm could they do?  we thought. Mom seemed to think they would die anyway. Upon further research, however, we found that we had an infestation of pond snails.

Basically, pond snails reproduce really  fast, so the dozen we had were going to become hundreds if we didn’t act quickly. This turned out to be a problem. Ariana and I didn’t want to kill innocent creatures, but if we didn’t somehow get rid of the snails, fish would be unable to live in the tank.

We were left with several options. First, we could completely trash the tank and leave the snails somewhere to die. Ariana wouldn’t here a word of it, though, so we moved on. Another option was to remove all the snails, hornwart, and the small shrimp we had found and release them in a local pond. That’s what we ended up doing.

After that, we had to completely restart the process of setting up the tank. We bought a kit to test ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, and pH levels in the water. When the ammonia and nitrite fell to zero and the nitrate spiked, we knew we were ready to buy some fish.

So, on January 29 (2017), we bought two new male guppies and a cleaning shrimp. Male guppies tend to be more colorful than the females, so we ended up with two very colorful guppies. They both had wide fins (sort of like a beta, but smaller), but they were different colors. One of them was mostly a blueish purple with hints of green. His tail was mostly blue but fringed in black. The other was lavender, blue, green, and even a little orange and yellow. His tail looked like a rainbow in the light. It was fringed in black but the black was less concentrated- it looked a lot like ink when you drop it into water. They were both about 1 1/2 inches long. The shrimp, meanwhile, was about one inch long and clear, It had spots on its side an long antennae. It was almost clear, so we thought we could make out its brain. The main purpose of the shrimp was not to look pretty, but mostly to clean the tank and eat the algae.

We had no trouble coming up with a name for the shrimp- we called it Sewey, after the electronic mop that our family dubbed “Doo-Hickey”, or Dewey. (The “s” was because he was a shrimp.) We had a bit more difficulty naming the guppies. We compiled a list of names. Here were some of the favorites:

  • Zircon
  • Chalcedony
  • Sushi
  • Royal
  • Mist
  • Moss
  • Miso (soup)
  • Poseidon
  • Coral
  • Marsh mellow
  • Moby
  • Peek and Boo
  • Tic and Tack
  • Splish and Splash
  • One Fish Two Fish
  • Raspberry (Raz)
  • Avocado
  • Pomegranate
  • Mango
  • Pizzazz
  • blueberry muffin (muffy)
  • opal
  • fro and yo
  • ambrosia dumpling
  • cherry and pie
  • nutty
  • donut
  • custard
  • gingerbread
  • jello and jelly
  • butterscotch
  • keylime
  • lemon
  • sickerdoodle
  • velvet
  • tart
  • stroodle
  • shill
  • Verne
  • Ishmael

We ended up going with Moby (as in Moby Dick) for the multicolored one, and Ishmael (Ish for short, after “Call me Ishmael”) for the blueish one. We also gave Ish the middle name of Peridot.

Moby and Ish have been getting along pretty well- they are following each other around the tank. Sewey has also done a good job cleaning. When he entered the tank, the heater was covered in algae. By the time we got home from school on the 30th, the filter was mostly clean!

As exciting as having the new fish is, it comes with a lot of responsibility. The fish are on a strict light and feeding schedule. Ariana and I have been saddled with the responsibility of cleaning the tank, too. Still, I have a feeling it will all be worth it.

Christmast Concert SJ HS Choir 2016

This is our Christmas Concert as part of the South Jersey Homeschool Choir.  We aren’t homeschooled but we started in this choir when we didn’t have a school choir. We have a solo in the first video (Daniela starts then I come in). In the last video Daniela is playing a piano solo of a song she had recently learned. (She plays it better now!)
Let us know what you think!


Daniela’s Piano Solo

Humanities: Roman Emperors (DV)

Imagine having so much power that your word is law. Such was the power of emperors in the Roman Empire. Roman emperors had command of 26 legions, as well as the authority to veto the actions of the magistrates and control the imperial patronage. They even influenced the religion of the empire. The emperor could rebuild decaying temples and resurrect old religious ceremonies. In short, he could do just about anything. This resulted in both good and bad changes in Rome. While some great rulers benefited the Roman people, others did nothing but harm. Specifically, Commodus left the empire worse for wear, while Hadrian and Trajan had positive impacts on Rome.

Regrettably, the years Commodus spent in power were not good ones for the empire. Although his accession to the throne was initially greeted with general approval, it was met eventually with hostility as Commodus began to engage in self-indulgent and ego-maniacal behaviors. He was especially fond of gladiator fights. He enjoyed them so much, in fact, that he participated in them himself. However, Commodus was known to cheat by blunting his opponents’ swords. In addition, Commodus devalued Rome’s currency significantly by reducing the weight of the denarius and the purity of silver. It was the biggest reduction since Nero’s, and a huge blow to the empire. Not only that, but he lacked concern for political matters altogether. That, combined with a thirst for leisure, brought about what some consider a reign of terror. In fact, Commodus’ rule is regarded as the start of the fall of the Roman Empire. In the famous words of noted historian Dio Cassius, his lack of interest in political affairs was the starting point for the decline of the empire, leaving Commodus responsible for initiating Rome’s plunge “from a kingdom of gold to one of iron and rust.”

On the other hand, Trajan was one of the best emperors Rome ever saw. He was a good soldier and a man of talent, tolerance, and courtesy. During his nineteen years of rule, Trajan improved the empire’s roads and harbors as well as provided support for the children of Rome’s poor. Furthermore, he conquered the area of Mesopotamia and started a healthcare-like system for the Plebeians. Although the Senate had little power, Trajan treated them with respect, consulted them, and maintained the Senate’s good will. Some historians say that by doing this, he brought back the “old spirit” of Rome. So, with all of these good deeds under his belt, it’s no wonder that Trajan was the second of Rome’s 5 Good Emperors.

Similarly, Hadrian was considered one of Rome’s Good Emperors as well. Like Trajan, he was a soldier and a strong man. His goal was to give Rome a good start for the future. Hadrian oversaw many building projects and built Hadrian’s Wall, which strengthened the Roman frontier and still exists today. Another one of his building projects was repairing the Pantheon, which had been destroyed in a fire. It, too, still stands. Hadrian also traveled across the empire and stabilized local governments, as well as added to the beautification of Rome. He established cities in Egypt, Asia Minor, and Greece, too. Even better, Hadrian penalized those who mistreated their slaves. Finally, he kept the army in peak condition through constant training and surprise inspections. However, though Hadrian was a brilliant emperor, some may point out that he ordered a public burning of the Torah, and was therefore closed-minded. However, while other emperors persecuted Christians, Hadrian respected their beliefs. So, in that way, he was one of the more open-minded emperors. In the end, Hadrian was a remarkable emperor who made a lasting good impact on Rome as a whole.

Ultimately, while Commodus’s rule led to the decline of Rome, Trajan and Hadrian changed the empire for the better. During his reign, Commodus was brutal and lazy. Eventually, he led a reign of terror that initiated the fall of Rome. Meanwhile, Trajan brought back some of the old ways of Rome through his treatment of the Senate. He contributed to the beautification of the empire and to the welfare of the commoners. Hadrian was much the same. He led numerous successful building projects, and strengthened the empire through his training of the army and cities he established. But while emperors like Hadrian and Trajan had positive influences, the overall system of the empire was not a good one, as it eventually collapsed. Hopefully, though, we can learn from the mistakes of the Romans and use them to make better choices for our future.