Saturday, November 8, 2008

Bill Maher's "Religulous" = Disrespect and Immaturity

I have not seen this movie, nor did I ever plan to. When I first heard about the movie, it seemed like something I would find offensive, not because I am religious, per se, but because I respect each person's right to believe in what he/she chooses. This is the reason why I do not understand conflict between religious groups. If you believe in God, you should believe that he/she is everyone's God. There are a lot of small differences and manmade rules involved in religion, but I think that you have to be able to look past all of that and simply determine what and if you believe.
That being said, I turn now to my utter disdain for Bill Maher and his new movie, "Religulous." I had the displeasure of viewing a clip/preview of this movie online (not my choice, I was sitting with someone who wanted to see the preview). I have to say that within the first twenty seconds or so, I was utterly disgusted and offended by what I saw. I think it is interesting to study different cultures, religions, societies, and examine the differences, even if you do not agree with the teachings or practices of such. And if a filmmaker, performer, or writer wants to raise valid points about aspects of a particular faith that he/she finds outrageous or extreme, that would be his/her right. However, this film is not so much a study of religions, as it is a complete mockery of them. Just as it is Maher's right to be an Atheist and not be shown disrespect for his lack of belief, it is each person's right to believe in what he/she chooses and not be shown disrespect because of it. Bill Maher apparently does not feel this way. His handling of this film is revolting. He blatantly shows a complete lack of respect for anyone who practices any form of religion. Well, according to a Gallup International Millennium Survey, eighty-seven percent (87%) of the world's population believes in some form of religion or god.
So Maher, you have now offended at least 87% of the world. And actually, since those of us who do not practice religion but do practice respect and tolerance may also be offended by your movie, you have actually alienated a much higher percentage of the population. I daresay your film is offensive and disrespectful to everyone (except for people like yourself who may think that it is okay to treat others with complete disregard).

Gay Marriage Issue

The ban ended up passing, i.e. gay marriage will be prohibited in California. It is definitely a conflict-causing issue, even within one’s own mind at times. Though I do not practice religion now, I was raised as a Catholic, and was taught that such a union is morally wrong, but I also was taught tolerance and acceptance of all people, and so, I guess in the end, the latter sentiment has won out. One of the things I find kind of irritating about the gay marriage ban issue is that there are a lot of celebrities who are now voicing their anger (now, i.e. post election) about the ban, but before the vote, most of them did not really do very much in the way of encouraging people to vote against the ban.
It is kind of funny in general, how marriage, which is supposed to be a spiritual (or religious, if one is religious) bond between two people, became this legal institution, at least in many modern societies. A few months ago, I saw a story on National Geographic about a culture that handles its relationships a little bit differently. I especially admired the bond among the females of the society. Here is the link to the story: China's "Kingdom of Women."

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Presidential Election: Reaction

This is one of my favorite articles so far about the world's reaction to the new President-elect Barack Obama.
Obama victory sparks cheers around the globe

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Have you exercised your democratic right today?

Okay, so technically, we in the U.S. live in a republic. This year's presidential race has been a historic campaign that has impassioned many, and reawakened the desire to vote in many Americans. It has even been a hot topic for those who live outside the U.S. For the first time, many voters feel as if they have a choice; they are not just voting for the lesser of two evils. For me, this is the first time in my life that I can actually remember wanting someone to win, not just hoping the other guy doesn't get in. Did you exercise your right to vote today? If you do not live in the U.S., do you have an opinion about whom you would like to see in office?

Monday, November 3, 2008


This morning, as I reviewed my site, I was horrified to see that one of my sponsored Google ads in the sidebar was displaying a "Protect Marriage - Yes on 8" advertisement. I immediately logged onto adsense and blocked this advertiser so that they can no longer display their ads on my site. For those who are not familiar with Proposition 8, it is a measure on the ballot in the state of California. If Proposition 8 took effect, gay marriage would no longer be allowed in California. So, voting "no" on Prop. 8 means you support allowing gay marriage, and voting "yes" means you want the state to ban gay marriage.
Personally, I do not believe that marriage and how two people feel about each other should have anything to do with the law. Why should the government have to sanction any marriage, either heterosexual or homosexual? But as long as marriage is an issue of legality, I believe that the government should not interfere in the decision of two homosexual people to marry.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Blog Action Day 2008: Poverty

I have been exploring the topic of poverty in recent days. The result is the following post.

Defining Poverty
What is poverty? According to the World Bank, poverty is characterized by lack of food and/or shelter, lack of education, lack of healthcare, but it is also “powerlessness, lack of representation and freedom.”
A large percentage of Americans are in debt. Which leads me to a question: is poverty the state in which one lives, or is it the amount of money and/or debt which one amasses?
I agree that extreme poverty is characterized by a lack of the very basics: food, shelter, medical care. But I also agree with the statement above that poverty is “powerlessness, lack of representation and freedom.” Obviously, there is a difference between being poor, i.e. trapped in one’s current situation but able to afford the basics, and poverty, which can be considered a lack of access to the basic needs of human beings in order to survive.

Poverty and Social Responsibility
What can we do about poverty, or should we do anything about poverty? Is each person responsible for him/herself, or do we have an obligation, if we are better equipped financially, to assist others? And along those lines, is it better to give or to teach?
There are many social welfare programs in the United States, but how many of them are bettering the needy? Should these programs be focused more on teaching and less on giving?
Is there a difference between living in poverty in a country like the U.S. and living in poverty elsewhere, such as in a developing nation? Are the poor in the U.S. richer (i.e. in social welfare programs available to them) than the poor in less financially stable countries?

Poverty and Homelessness in the U.S.
Poverty in the U.S. is very closely associated with homelessness.
According to the Los Angeles Homeless Services Coalition, 3.5 million people in the U.S. experience homelessness in a given year, and one-fifth of those are chronically mentally ill. I would like to further explore the topic of mental illness and homelessness at a later date.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

The importance of body language and inner poise

How importance are charisma and confidence? How about body language and inner strength?

I noticed during the presidential debate that there was a great difference in the way the two candidates presented themselves. Particularly, I perceived a great variation in the body language of each. One stood tall, with arms wide, shoulders high. He seemed at ease. He looked directly at his opponent when the opponent spoke, and even addressed him directly at times. He smiled, but not too widely, he looked serious at times, but never did he appear cross or upset. He seemed relaxed and confident when answering questions. In other words, he kept his composure - inner poise.

The other candidate's body language was quite different. He did not look at his opponent when the opponent spoke; he mostly looked either down or straight ahead. To me, this projected either a lack of confidence or a lack of respect toward the opponent. Thinking about this person meeting with foreign leaders, one wonders if he would have a problem making eye contact with them if he disagreed with their policies. This candidate did not turn his body toward his opponent at any time. He frequently made reference to his opponent in the third person, as if he was not in the same room. It seemed a bit odd to me. This candidate's body language was more "closed," that is, his posture seemed more rigid and his facial expressions indicated a bit of tension.

Perhaps some would say that body language and poise are not important when choosing a candidate for president, nor important in any respect for that matter. However, I completely disagree. For example, what is the point of a job interview, if not to judge you by your body language and composure? The potential employer already has your resume and list of qualifications.

As a former student of Psychology and Sociology, I definitely feel that body language plays an important role in the way that we judge others. In addition, a person's body language can put us at ease or make us feel uncomfortable; it is that powerful.

Body language and poise go beyond an election. It affects the way others see us each day, and the way we view others as well, especially upon a first meeting. How important do you believe body language is in making an impression? Do you feel that it has an effect on the way others see you, or on how you perceive others?

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Blog Action Day - Oct. 15th, 2008

Theme: Poverty
What is poverty? On October 15, 2008, bloggers who sign up for Blog Action Day are supposed to discuss the issue of poverty. The guidelines are fairly simple.

If you'd like to participate, you can go to Blog Action Day and sign up, then post an entry on your blog forewarning of the coming day (such as I am doing now), and include a link back to the blog where you learned about Blog Action Day. I first read about it on: Jack Mandora.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

What is the age of innocence?

What if you could travel back to that moment in time before you saw the negative side of life, before you learned that bad things sometimes come into our lives, or even before you learned about the concept of death?
I think that most of us have layers of innocence, and as we grow older and experience more, these layers get stripped away. Each person's life is different; at the end, some are left with a few layers, some are stripped bare, and then there are those who seem impermeable to life's tragedies, those who appear unaffected or are perhaps unaware. You may call these people oblivious, you may call them lucky.
When we are young, we may have grandparents, pets, or neighbors who pass away. For most of us, this is our first encounter with death; this is the first time we experience a loss.
As we become teens, we develop a sense of invincibility; we can do whatever we want, we will never die, and nothing can hurt us (at least not physically, though our egos are quite easily bruised).
As we enter young adulthood, we have perhaps become slightly less invincible and slightly more human, but are ready to take on life nonetheless. We have things to prove and goals to achieve. We may have suffered mildly, maybe a broken heart or two, but perhaps having experienced these small tragedies has actually given us a false sense of wisdom.
As we attempt to conquer the world, we begin to face new challenges, such as work, dealing bosses and co-workers, fitting in, paying bills and having real relationships, we often find that life is not how we imagined it would be. It's harder. It does not look like the scenes we painted in our minds several years before. Maybe we begin to see that life, can at times, be cruel.
And another layer falls away.
As I ponder these things, I am reminded of the book Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger. In high school, I had to read this book. I remember my English teacher saying that Holden was trying to recapture his innocence, or was at least mourning the loss of it. At my young age, I did not understand exactly what she meant; how could I?
Lately, I have been thinking about censorship and what protecting the young really means (my thoughts were actually prompted by another blog I have recently begun to read).
Do we seek to preserve the innocence of our children (or children in general, i.e. the younger generation) in a futile attempt to recapture something which is impossible, that is, our own lost sense of innocence and naivety?

Monday, August 18, 2008

Is this necessary?

I was in the drug store tonight, when I happened upon this ridiculous display. What you may or may not be able to tell from the picture is that this is a full aisle of Christmas ornaments, Hallmark keepsakes, or whatever you want to call them. The fact is that this store has set aside an entire aisle for the display of Christmas ornaments - in August.
Lately, I have been thinking about the myths/lies that authorities peddle to us and that parents sometimes peddle to their children. Some of these myths are thought to be good for us - white lies told for our benefit or to protect us. In keeping with the holiday theme (in spite of the fact that they are still over four months away), I would like to explore the story of Santa Claus, and how people feel about the legend today. Are parents still passing this story down to their children, or has St. Nick become passe? If so, why do parents still propagate this myth, when it will only result in confusion, disappointment, and betrayal later on when they must tell their children that they lied?
When I was a kid, what first tipped me off was the fact that we did not have a chimney in our house; then everything else began to fall into place. I reasoned it out in my head, trying to convince myself that he was real, but in the end, logic won out. What was most difficult was that I did not know how to break it to my parents that I knew Santa was not real, so I pretended for a couple more years!
What were your beliefs regarding Santa Claus when you were young? How did you find out the truth and how did you feel? When you have children (or if you already have children), what will you tell them?

Friday, August 15, 2008

The return of Scripter...

Hello, I have been busy moving across the country for the past several weeks, so for the one and a half or so people who actually read this blog or navigate to it by accident (in any case, it counts!), I am back. I have actually moved to the San Francisco area (the fulfillment of a dream for some time), and have started another blog to chronicle my adventures here. It is called SF Bay Expressions, and contains photos of various things - landscapes, happenings, cultural events, etc. - which I am encountering as I explore the area.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Could billions spent on Olympics be put to better use?

What if all of the money spent on the Olympics went toward buying food for the hungry and poor? Or what if it was spent on better education?

What other uses could Olympic funds be put toward?

References (articles that discuss Olympic spending): GOP Spat Began with Olympics; McCain Backs Olympic Bid, but Watch Spending

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Why I hate Wikipedia...

These are the reasons that I hate Wikipedia:

Ø Grammatical errors
Ø Explanations that lack thoroughness and simply do not make sense
Ø The false sense that there is some authority behind these explanations
Ø Lack of adequate references
Ø Inaccurate information (coupled with the false sense of authority)
Ø The fact that it is often the first search result to appear
Ø The fact that it claims to be an encyclopedia

I can even back up my hatred with an example: “All current methods involve heating a working fluid such as water, which is then converted into mechanical work for the purpose of generating electricity or propulsion.” So, according to this entry in Wiki, water is converted into mechanical work for generating electricity. I have several problems with this explanation. The first is that I’m not sure what the author means by “water … is then converted into mechanical work.” This does not make sense. Secondly, I believe the use of water to generate electricity is deemed hydroelectric power, and certainly does not produce radioactive side effects. (Now water is used in nuclear power plants, but certainly not in the way that the Wiki article implies. There is a much more thorough explanation here, and there is also a specific author attached to this article.)

Who can write for Wikipedia? According to Wiki itself, “Visitors do not need specialized qualifications to contribute, since their primary role is to write articles that cover existing knowledge.” What is existing knowledge? Do they mean common knowledge? If so, why would anyone need to look up something if it is common knowledge? And I daresay, that there are many topics which are covered on Wikipedia which are not common knowledge and are in fact specialized. In addition, “Most of the articles can be edited by anyone with access to the Internet, simply by clicking the edit this page link.” So even if there is accurate information displayed on a given topic, someone else can come along and change it to make it inaccurate. Brilliant!

Why do you hate Wikipedia? (If you like Wikipedia, why???!!!)

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Yucca Mountain Discussion: Background Information

Yucca Mountain is the planned site of a massive nuclear waste dump. It is located in Nevada, approximately 100 miles Northwest of Las Vegas. Though you may not often hear about it in the news (especially if you live outside of Nevada), Yucca Mountain has been a hot topic in Congress for twenty-six years. The Las Vegas Review Journal provides excellent updated coverage of the Yucca Mountain Project. It is a very involved situation, but basically, the U.S. Department of Energy plans to use the site to bury at least seventy-seven thousand tons of radioactive waste. According to the LVRJ, the road to Yucca began in 1982 with the passage of the Nuclear Waste Policy Act, which called for the construction of a national nuclear waste storage facility. In 1987, it was decided that Yucca Mountain would be the site of this facility. (You can see a timeline of milestones here.)
In 2002, Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham recommended Yucca as the disposal site for "the nation's most lethal nuclear waste." President Bush promptly approved the recommendation. Originally the repository was due to be complete by 1998, but forseeing an inability to meet that dealine, the government moved the completion date to 2010. Recently, even the 2010 deadline has been deemed unlikely to happen, as the license to build the facility has not been approved yet. At this point, the Energy Department has just submitted their application for a license to physically build the Yucca facility.
Prior to 2001, the Dept. of Energy had to prove that Yucca Mountain itself could safely contain radioactive waste; in 2001, they were given permission to use storage containers to contain the waste. There has been additional controversy over the issue of the containers themselves, such as their durability and how likely they are to corrode, what might happen in the event of an earthquake, etc. Needless to say, severe doubt has been cast upon the adequacy of these containers to prevent radioactive leakage. (The very idea that at any point, the government was going to consider storing the waste directly in the mountain without the use of sealed containers seems absurd to me.)
If the waste is not stored properly, there could be serious environmental implications and negative impacts on the people who live in the surrounding area. There are additional implications with regard to the transport of this waste to the site, and the risks posed to anyone within a certain distance of the transportation routes, which would run throughout the entire U.S. (I will be following up on the potential environmental and health effects as well as the transport issue in a later post.)

What is your position on Yucca; is this an issue of which you were previously aware?

Friday, June 20, 2008

"Uncontacted" Amazon Tribe: Will they remain uncontacted, or will the world (and media) worm its way into these people's lives?

I have been reading a little bit about these uncontacted tribes in the Amazon, and yesterday another article about them on National Geographic's website caught my eye. I have been wondering: will these tribes be left alone, or will people from the outside penetrate the tribes, and irrevocably change the way of life for these people? As a sociologist (observer) and a lover of anthropology, I am more inclined to observe and study than to intervene and change.
In the June 3rd article, it states that the group Survival International "takes the position that uncontacted tribes should be allowed to live in their own way on their own land, as recognized by international law. " One of National Geographic's explorers/authors, Wade Davis, later states that contact with the tribes should only be made if necessary, i.e. they are in danger, and not solely out of curiosity.
What do you think will happen? Have the wheels already been set in motion for this tribe's way of living to change because this story has been much publicized? Or was the tribe's culture and lifestyle already doomed to change due to the possibility of deforestation and infringement by oil companies in the Amazon? Will the publicity actually serve to protect them from habitat destruction?

Friday, June 13, 2008

The Art of Discussion: Conversation versus Domination

I sometimes try to avoid discussing social issues for fear of running the risk of offending someone. However, when discussing any issue that may be considered controversial or sensitive, one runs the risk of offending someone.
Discussion is a key element in learning and sharing. However, all too often, discussion, be it online, in person amongst two people, or in a group setting such as a classroom, turns into heated and sometimes angry debate when one party tries to dominate the other by speaking loudly (i.e. talking over the other person), using domineering body language, being nasty or insulting, or putting the other party down and being disrepectful.
I do not feel that such behavior is necessary. It is possible to express one's opinion without trying to dominate those who oppose it. I am wondering if gender plays a role in the outcome of such discussions. Do you feel, or have you experienced situations where, either men or women specifically try to dominate the discussion? Do you feel that gender does play a role in the turn these discussions take? How do you get your point across; are you guilty of these negative behaviors? Or do you avoid talking with co-workers and friends about sensitive issues, for fear the conversation may take an ugly turn?

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Follow up to Question for Readers: What is the best way to combat ignorance?

Here is the immediate reason for my post. While living in the South, I have encountered a lot of ignorance, or what I deem anti-progressive thought. (See earlier post: Is the Southern U.S. in Need of a Cultural Revolution?) When I posted those questions, actually moments before I posted the questions, I had a heated argument with a work associate. During this argument, I was told to "go live in Iran, express my opinions, and see what happened to me as a woman." I can only assume that he was suggesting that I would be raped, killed, jailed, or otherwise assaulted (as opposed to being verbally assaulted, which is what happened to me during this conversation). I took what he said to mean that basically I was lucky to be able to be a woman and live in a country where I was allowed to speak my mind. Yes, it is called the first amendment. But I guess, as a man, he did not question his right to speak his mind. He went on to regurgitate propaganda which could have come directly from one of President Bush's pro-war speeches right around the time he began to send the military into Iraq.
In any case, needless to say, I was quite angry after this "conversation." But anger does not solve problems, resolve differences, or bridge knowledge gaps. In fact, it usually causes problems (when not channelled properly). So, I am trying to be the "bigger person" in this situation, and rise above my momentary anger to ask what it is I can do to combat such attitudes and ignorance. This attitude is one I have been subjected to many times during my two year stint in Florida (which I hope will be coming to an end soon). I have encountered a great deal of sexism and culturally-backward attitudes on many occasions. This situation has made me feel oppressed, sad, angry and powerless at times. But I am wondering if there is a way that I can turn all of these things into something positive. Here is my feeble attempt to do just that.
Previously, I was ignorant that so much sexism, racism and cultural bias still existed in the United States. I had thought this was a thing of the past. My eyes have now been opened to this ugliness. Now that I am aware of it, I have the opportunity to do something about it. You cannot attempt to make a change where you do not know that one is needed.
I have learned, or perhaps am learning, that the best way to combat ignorance is through knowledge, education and sympathy (certainly not with aggression or anger). At least, this is what I think.
What do you think?

Question For All Readers

What is the best way to combat ignorance?

(I have my opinions, which I will share later, but I would like to know yours.)

Friday, May 30, 2008

Dr. Jane Goodall provides some food for thought...

Dr. Jane Goodall is probably the most well-known and respected primate research expert in the world. This week, she has been campaigning for the elimination of animal testing in the European Union. This has made me more conscious of the fact that some of the household products I use may be manufactured by companies that test on animals. I have started doing some research, and I will be making some changes. I was relieved to find that some cosmetic companies that I favor (and can afford) do not test on animals. I guess this is an issue I have been aware of but have kind of pushed to the back of my mind. Even if Dr. Goodall is unsuccessful in her mission in the EU, I think she is accomplishing a great deal in drawing more attention to this issue and raising awareness of it.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Why must we possess what we admire?

I love, therefore I must own. In our society, love equals ownership. Is this an innate human fault, or a societal one? One possesses one's spouse, home, land, form of transportation, children. If I love the ocean, do I need to purchase beachfront property? This trait is hardly exclusive to the United States. Perhaps there is also an issue of power; I read an article today on BBC News' website which provoked these thoughts. In the BBC's article, Tibet is described as "the site of a mystical Utopia." Is imperialism by large and powerful nations just an extension of this human need to possess?

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

An Alien Idea

The Vatican (Roman Catholic Church) has stated that it is acceptable to believe in aliens. This is proof of a point which I was actually making earlier today, that the Catholic Church is a supporter of science. I attended Catholic high school in New York City, where I was taught about evolution for the first time. I was taught that it was the Church's policy that religious belief and scientific theory could co-exist. My biology teacher was actually a priest, and never contradicted science for the sake of religion. While my beliefs may have changed over the years, my respect for the Church's policy for supporting science and education has not. It seems as though some supporters of science would emphasize the divide between religion and science, when creating such a divide is what maintains ignorance. Perhaps these people are talking more of the Christian fundamentalists of the South (U.S.) and Midwest, but I still feel like Catholicism gets lumped in with that sect. Is it not possible for those of faith to open their minds to science, and for scientists to show a mutual respect for those who are religious? Religious institutions have historically attempted to hold back scientific progress; however, it is not necessary for the pendulum to now swing the other way. To me, this is more an issue of mutual respect and tolerance than of whose theories and beliefs are correct.
By the way, this is what I think aliens actually might look like if they exist:) Mexican Axolotl

Friday, May 16, 2008

A lesser Panda? I don't think so...

The Red Panda is on the brink of extinction. So why is this tiny, adorable Panda given so little attention? I was not aware of its existence until a couple of years ago when I watched a documentary about it on cable. It is a harmless, beautiful, little animal whose habitat is threatened by deforestation and to a lesser degree, hunters. And, according to the Smithsonian National Zoological Park website, there many be fewer than 2500 adult Red Pandas left in the wild.
For more information about the Red Panda and to see pictures, you can go to (on the first two sites, you can even adopt /sponsor one!):
Smithsonian National Zoological Park
The Red Panda Network
National Geographic

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Acknowledgment for a candidate, endorsements and voting aside...

With so much attention focused on Hillary Clinton and Barrack Obama, it is sometimes diffcult to remember that there is a Republican in the race, i.e. John McCain. The focus has mainly been on the battle between Obama and Clinton, both hotly competing for the Democratic Nomination.
Whether you support Hillary Clinton or not, I think she is owed a credit for doing something few women before her have done [see link: Center for American Women & Politics]. While technically, women have equal rights in the United States, I think most women, particularly those who have ever lived in the South, can tell you that sexism is still very much alive. I have been living in the Tampa area of Florida for the past two years, and have experienced it firsthand, especially in the workplace. It is often not as blatant and obvious as someone saying, "woman, get me some coffee." That would be too easy. But it is subtle, and its ugly overtures are present everyday. I will not go into detail, but trust me, it is there. I can tell from insinuations that have been made that the idea of having a woman as president would be laughable to many of my male co-workers.
This is why I applaud Hillary Clinton. I may not agree with her completely nor support all of her policies. But whether you plan to vote for her or not, I think she deserves some recognition for her efforts. It is difficult to take on great challenges when the quiet voices of many are telling you that you are still the fairer sex.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Smokers, this means you!

First, let me say that I am someone who does not smoke and who detests cigarettes. I grew up with a father who smoked heavily, and I actually believe that it is he who is to credit for the fact that neither I nor my three siblings have ever smoked cigarettes. We developed an aversion to and even a hatred for smoking as a result of being couped up in cars, rooms, and other small spaces with fumes of the nasty stuff. My dad would light up after each meal, and would always smoke in the car. In his defense, he was fourteen when he started smoking, and back in his day, I think doctors were still telling people that nicotene was no more harmful than bubble gum. It took my father fifty years to quit, but he did it. I think that the higher the number of years you have smoked, the greater is the accomplishment of quitting.

However, since the 1970's or so, doctors, along with the Surgeon General, have caught onto the fact that cigarettes, are in fact, bad for your health. This is why I cannot understand why anyone around my own age, give or take fifteen years, would have started smoking in the first place. It does not make sense. Aside from being terrible for your health, it is just plain disgusting! Yes, I have tried a few cigarettes, just to see what the allure is, and I could not figure it out. What is the appeal - bad breath, smelly hair and clothes, yellowed teeth?

Not to mention those of you who flick your cigarette butts out of car windows, leaving them to land all over the road. Where do you think they go? Don't you have an ashtray in your car?

And the smokers who stand outside of buildings and when finished, throw their cigarettes on the ground, stamp them out, and leave them there! The world is not your trash can.

With all of my disgust with regard to cigarette smoking, there is a new element of repulsion which has come to my attention in recent years. Smokers, you are polluting the environment! If you want to make your lungs black and poison yourself slowly, go for it. But your actions are impacting others, in fact, the whole world. [Interesting articles: How Smoking Affects Our Environment, AHA: Environmental Tobacco Smoke, Cigarette Butts Cause Environmental Pollution]

On a side note, here is a link to images of cigarette warning in European Union countries. They are somewhat more detailed and severe than those found in the U.S.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

I walk, therefore I am green...

I hate driving. I am lucky enough to live close enough to my job so that I can walk to work every morning. I used to live thirty miles from work, and it would take me between fifty minutes and two hours (depending on the weather and other factors) to travel each way to work. In late August, I moved and started to walk to work. I have since become a changed person. Before, hostile, angry, tense, frustrated, and hoarse (from yelling at the other drivers), I would arrive home and spend the rest of the evening trying to "de-stress" not only from my job, but from my commute. Since I have started walking to work, I have become less tense and less hostile (or at least able to focus my hostility on the things that really bother me:). I feel healthier, not only because I walk, but because I do not have to spend two or three hours of my day couped up in a small, stuffy car without moving. (It is bad enough to have to sit for eight hours a day at your job.)
With concerns such as global warming and rapidly rising gas prices, public transportation, biking and walking are obviously becoming the ideal forms of transportation. However, methods of commute such as these are not only environmentally and financially friendly, they are in fact good for your physical and mental health. [Interesting articles: Green Exercise]
It is unfortunate that there are not a great many cities in the United States where you can rely solely on public transit and walking, or at least rely on it as your preferred mode of transportation. Cities like New York, San Francisco, Boston and Portland have been heralded for their commuter-friendly transportation options. How do you feel your city ranks with regard to transportation?

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Survival of the sleepiest…

Sleep: 20 hours; Eat, play, mate: 4 hours
This may sound like an average day in the life of an American college student. However, this relaxing and somewhat loungy schedule describes the life of the koala bear; unfortunately, it is out of necessity that these creatures sleep their lives away. An article featured on today describes the fragile existance of this endangered species, and how our actions are impacting the survival of the koala.
It is true that Earth Day took place last month, but given the state of the environment, I have to ask - is devoting one day out of three-hundred sixty-five to the earth enough? It is disheartening to read about the state of the environment, and the effect that our daily way of life is having on the world. The negative impact that we are having is not something that will happen in the indefinite future; the effect can readily be seen today.
To me, it seems like there is not much any one person can do without drastically changing one’s way of life. However, I have found several “green guides” which have proven me wrong. There are indeed simple ways that any of us can reduce our negative impact on the environment without making major changes. And keep in mind that many of these green tips will also save you money!

Yahoo! Green

The Green Guide by National Geographic

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

The Olympic Committee Lays Down the Law...

According to the Associated Press, the participants in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing will be under scrutiny based not only on their athletic performance, but on a plethora of other indicators, i.e. showing any kind of support for the Dalai Lama or Tibetan freedom/rights.

The International Olympic Committe (IOC) Rule 51 states "no kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas."
And according to the AP, a letter by the IOC expanded on the rule to include appearance, actions or gestures.

However, back on April 24th, the Athletes Commission banded together and issued a statement, which you can find on the Olympic Movement's website. It specifically stated in this release: "Athletes have a right to express themselves, and plenty of opportunity to do so ahead of and during the Games. "
The mandate issued by the IOC today is in direct contradiction to the April 24th statement.

The Olympic games center around athletic performance and a long-standing tradition. However, should political oppression and civil freedoms take a holiday during the Olympics? And to be realistic, the Olympics are not immune to political influence and have in fact been used in order to take a stand against oppression in the past. [reference 1980s, Cold War, Olympic boycotts]
The athletes that make it to the Olympics are supposedly fulfilling a lifelong dream, but is the only thing that matters that they get to showcase their talent in the sports arena? Do they not have a right to express their political, religious, and philosophical beliefs? Dissension from the happy-go-lucky, neutral facade of the Olympic Games is obviously being frowned upon by the Committee. It leaves a question in my mind though: how can countries who pride themselves on "making the world a safer place for democracy" take part in an event in which the expression of dissent is frowned upon? Isn't the right to express oneself and one's beliefs - be they political, religious, or otherwise - one of the cornerstones of democracy?

Monday, May 5, 2008


Are we headed for a revival of socialist thought? The U.S. is not the only part of the western world where the middle class are becoming increasingly financially strained. Europe, it seems, is in a similar or possibly even more dire predicament [see NY Times article on European middle class].
It’s an age-old problem of classism; the wealth is controlled by the few, and the working middle class, which make up the majority of the population, are oppressed, unhappy and basically "just getting by." Why is this? Why has this been the pattern throughout the history of civilization? Are the middle class controlled by their own fear of losing what little they do have?
Or is it not a question of politics and economics that governs our way of life, so much as it is philosophy? Is all of the striving, all of the struggling to hold onto some small items what is making the middle class unhappy and dissatisfied? Does one truly have to own nothing in order to be free?
Interesting links:
see Texas A&M University Dept. of Philosophy: Stoicism, Buddhism, and the Meaning of Life

Friday, May 2, 2008

The Endangered, Beautiful, Unusual Tapir

The tapir is a very strange and beautiful looking animal that has intrigued me for years. When I was young, I remember seeing a television commercial for the Bronx Zoo; a very odd looking animal appeared in the commercial. I remember it looking like a smallish elephant with little ears and a muted trunk. Last year, I was perusing National Geographic's website and came across this unique animal once again. I was able to learn more about the origins and endangered status of the tapir. There are four kinds, each native to a different region of the world.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008


Why do some people oppress others? There is a lot of anger in the world; lately, I have come to believe that much of this anger is a result of oppression. Oppression begets frustration, which begets rage. What causes some people to oppress others? Is this a natural inclination? Do certain animals oppress others in the wild? Is there oppression within animal species, such as there is with humans? Is the act of oppressing another always a conscious choice, or is it somethings that is done subconsciously at times?

Is the southern U.S. in need of a cultural revolution?

"You're not in the schoolyard playing cowboys and Indians anymore!" That is what I should have said to him. But instead, I said nothing when he expressed his ignorance. I remained quiet when he mocked things that were different from himself. I laughed nervously when he jokingly belittled my principles. I opted for silence when I should have spoken up. I made jokes about his customs in defense, when I should have said "Enough!"
I currently live in western Florida. I have been here for about a year and a half, and it seems that there is a lot of ignorance here. This is not to say that the area is completely devoid of intelligent or open-minded people, but it does appear that discrimination, ethnic and sexist jokes, and fear of what does not conform to the local norms is much more acceptable here than it is in the part of the country where I am from, i.e. New York City. In New York, things are always changing; there are new people from different cultures and ways of life entering the city everyday. I have heard New York City called "a melting pot" many times, but I did not truly understand what it meant until I left the city. In New York, all of the differences and cultures and traditions sort of blend together until there is no norm. The norm is difference and variety. I had always taken this for granted until I left New York, and began to see that life in other parts of the United States is indeed very different. I had thought prejudice and sexism were things of the past, but now, sadly, I see that they are very real.
It is a wonder to me that legal segregation was abolished less than fifty years ago, and less than ninety years ago, women were not allowed to vote. Despite the fact that legally, we are all "equal," it seems that racism, prejudice, and sexism have still not been obliterated. And historically, the southern U.S. has lagged behind with regard to acceptance and tolerance of diversity and equality.
So what do you think? In what part of the world/U.S. do you live, and how do you feel with regard to the level of cultural diversity and equal treatment for men and women? Do you feel your city/region is behind the times, or is it progressive?

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Pygmy Pachyderm

National Geographic is my favorite site on the internet. There is always new and interesting information being presented on a variety of subjects, ranging from space exploration to wildlife to archaeology and cultural history. Beautiful photographs act as visual aids to many of the articles, and sometimes are the stories themselves. In addition, the site offers great links to lots of other informative sites where you can further explore whatever interests you. I peruse the National Geographic daily for enticing bits of information which open my mind to new possibilities and sometimes even inspire a story idea or two.
Today I read an article about the re-discovery of the pygmy elephant, previously thought to be extinct.
Is it true that John McCain is trying to soften his image by getting this pygmy pachyderm to attend the Republican Convention?