Monday, March 27, 2006

Readin', Writin', and Really Wishin' School Was Out

Have y'all noticed that over the past few months, my writing has become more sloppy and less focused? It seems that I have trouble writing more than a few sentences at a time, and the thoughts contained in those sentences aren't very good.

I was just looking over some of my previous blog posts from last summer, and I must say--at the risk of sounding conceited--I am impressed with what I read. However, I am also perplexed. It seems that when school started last fall, my writing skills began to go downhill. My mind began to lose its ability to think deeply about one topic for a long period of time. I'm moving from topic to topic, thinking only superficially about each one. Now, I hope this is simply because I haven't had adequate time to devote to thinking and writing. I fear, however, that my students' bad habits are starting to rub off on me. Maybe this problem will correct itself when school ends. (Only five more weeks!!!!!)

In an effort make the rest of the semester a little more interesting, and more importantly, to foster deeper thinking and understanding in my students, I have given them a new assignment for their last paper, which happens to be a long research paper. Their task is to research a topic that they don't know much about, one that they would like to be able to form an opinion about. They have to deal with topics from the following areas: a controversial issue for which they don't already hold a strong opinion; an event in history (like the Kent State riots or the Ruby Ridge incident); a belief system or belief-related practices (such as any religion or political philosophy, or practices such as polygamy or Veganism); or a culture/group/society (such as a gang, an ethnic group, or any other type of social/activist/interest group). The goal of the research is to learn about the subject and gain insights about the subject. My students don't have to come to an agreement with the beliefs being discussed, but they have to come to an understanding of why the people involved believe the way that they do. The paper the students will write will discuss the insights and understanding they have gained and show the reader how they came to these insights.

My students are actually quite excited about the research because they now have the chance to write about topics that normally would not be conducive to an English class or other college classes for that matter. They are choosing very interesing topics as well: With all the controversy around South Park and Tom Cruise lately, some are choosing to research Scientology. Others want to learn more about Islam. I also seem to have a lot of conspiracy theorists in my classes because some of the other topics include the Knights Templar, the Illuminati, the Skull and Bones Society, and the idea of the moon landing being a hoax. I hope that these papers will be fun to read.

What do you think?

Thursday, March 23, 2006

What a Great Day!

Today I am wearing pants that I haven't been able to zip up in about two years! And they feel comfortable!!

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Things That Make You Go "Hmmm."

I was talking with some colleagues about illegal immigration and got to wondering about something. The poem on the Statue of Liberty reads as follows:

Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door.

I wonder, how many tired, poor, huddled, wretched, tempest-tossed people have the time it takes to go through the proper channels to come here legally?

UPDATE: I've been thinking some more about this. It seems that the poem on the Statue of Liberty does not express the genuine sentiment of most people in this country. We don't want poor, tired, wretched, homeless people. We don't want the refuse that other countries toss aside. We want rich, vibrant, educated people who will work hard to increase our economy.

Jesus must be so proud of us.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Do Unto Others Before They Can Do It Unto You

I haven't had much time to blog this week, but I heard this and had to say something.

From our president:

The United States has long maintained the option of preemptive actions to counter a sufficient threat to our national security. The greater the threat, the greater is the risk of inaction -- and the more compelling the case for taking anticipatory action to defend ourselves, even if uncertainty remains as to the time and place of the enemy's attack. To forestall or prevent such hostile acts by our adversaries, the United States will, if necessary, act preemptively.

This is like me saying that if I think someone who doesn't like me is planning to do me some harm--even if it's just a rumor, I can go over to his house and take him out before he can hurt me.

Yesterday afternoon I heard part of an interview on NPR in which a Catholic priest, a person who calls himself a Christian, advocated this doctrine. I was sickened by what I heard. You can listen to the entire interview here.

How long will it be before the government uses this doctrine against its own citizens?

Friday, March 10, 2006

If You Own a Horse (Or Cow, Or Goat, Or Chicken. . .), The Government Wants to Know

Before you buy your little girl that horse she’s been wanting, consider the paperwork that will soon be involved. Actually, the government wants to keep track of all farm-type animals—horses, cows, chickens, pigs, llamas, etc.—regardless of whether you own several or only one. The United States Department of Agriculture's National Animal Identification System will soon (by Jan. 2008) require that anyone who owns any type of farm animal register his or her premises (or home) as a place where farm animals are kept (you will have to submit GPS coordinates for the place that the animal lives), and owners will then be required to register each animal and have it implanted with an RFID chip. Any time that the animal is moved to another location—selling it, taking it on a trail ride, taking it to a 4-H show, taking it to the slaughterhouse to kill it for food, etc.—the owner will have to file the necessary paperwork with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

From the USDA-NAIS website:

In April 2004, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced the framework for implementing the NAIS—an animal identification and tracking system that will be used in all States and that will operate under national standards. When fully operational, the system will be capable of tracing a sick animal or group of animals back to the herd or premises that is the most likely source of infection. It will also be able to trace potentially exposed animals that were moved out from that herd or premises. The sooner animal health officials can identify infected and exposed animals and premises, the sooner they can contain the disease and stop its spread.

[ . . . ]

The first step in implementing the NAIS is identifying and registering premises that house animals. Such premises would include locations where livestock and poultry are managed, marketed, or exhibited. Knowing where animals are located is the key to efficient, accurate, and cost–effective epidemiologic investigations and disease–control efforts.

[ . . . ]

As premises are registered, another component of the NAIS—animal identification—will be integrated into the system. Unique animal identification numbers (AINs) will be issued to individually identified premises. In the case of animals that move in groups through the production chain—such as swine and poultry—the group will be identified through a group/lot identification number (Group/Lot IDs) [emphasis mine].

For every animal owned, the owner would have to register (for a fee) that animal and obtain a unique ID number for each. However, “[a]nimals that move in groups through the production chain” could be registered together with only one number, creating a substantial savings to the owner. These particular animals would be those born and raised on corporate farms (i.e. ConAgra, Tyson, etc.) and which remain grouped together from birth on the farm to death in the slaughterhouse. Obviously, small farms such as those operated by people who wish to raise their own beef or eggs will be exposed to a huge financial burden to the gain of the large corporate farms. And even if you are raising animals just for pleasure rather than food—such as owning a horse for occasional riding—you will be strapped with the extra burden of providing paperwork for every time that you take that horse on a ride off of your property.

This program has deep implications. Obviously, the large corporations will be in favor of any program that makes the consumer more dependent on them. If you are a person who likes to raise your own organic beef or who prefers eggs from the free range chickens that your neighbor raises, you will pay for that privilege. Big Brother is becoming much too big.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Not Chugging Beer at the Beach

This week is Spring Break, and today I'll finish grading a set of essays, and then later this week, I'll do my taxes. But at least I'm not at work for a week.