Sunday, July 11, 2010

Update/Perception and Your Life View

Seems like I have been getting into the habit of writing on this blog for an indeterminate amount of time, and then end up stopping for a longer period. While I am sure it will continue like this as my education continues and eventually I get a job to preoccupy the rest of my time, I feel like this is a good exercise in getting ones feelings and thoughts out into the world and who knows, maybe it will help someone.

To get back into the writing rhythm I have decided to make this post a little more philosophical and based on my own experiences rather than my usual commentary on politics and world news. Since I last wrote a lot has happened to me and in my opinion I have gained good life experiences and feel like I am back on track with my life. I have started focusing on things that are important to me and making sure I have good connections with people.

With that being said, I find myself back home (my hometown) for the summer trying to find summer employment to help me out when I head back to school in September. This is the first time I have been home for about 4 years now. Previously, I would go to school straight through the fall, winter and summer sessions. I would only come here on holidays and other special occasions. It definitely feels different. It is good to see family and friends, but it feels... different. I know I have used that word twice now, but there is no other way I can describe it. The feeling I had when I lived her everyday is completely different than the one I get now when I am here. I am not sure if it is because I have formed great friendships and relationships away from this place and now this place seems foreign, but it is definitely very noticeable. However, I have found time to catch up with my brother and my parents.

As I mentioned, I have been trying to look for a job, but have been unsuccessful. The problem is that I am not a high school student, and most of the jobs available for the summer are geared towards them. Being a university graduate there are no government grants that help me procure work. If an employer hires a high schooler they can get the government to pay for a portion of their salary, whereas I have no such incentive. While this did get me down for a while, because I found myself spending enormous amounts of time on the computer, I have decided to accept it. I have put my resumes out there and there is not much else I can do about that.

The main thing that I have re-realized is that younger me was much smarter than present day me. While I have presently been fretting about what to do and having no job to occupy me, younger me wouldn't have been so distressed by these circumstances. When I was young I was never bored, or didn't have something to do. I would find amusement in mostly anything! The key is to focus on whatever you are doing and place great value in it. I am glad that I have realized this and now I am doing much better. For instance, I have started playing a game on the Internet called where you play trivia and donate rice to help starving people. It is activities like this that help you understand it is not what you do, but how you perceive them. It is all about the value that we instill into whatever it is that we do.

Essentially, what I am saying is that you can change your perceptions on reality to fit your situation. Also, it helps having great people in your life to help you get through the hard times.

Monday, November 30, 2009

A Comic I Made

NOTE: Click on the image to view the whole comic!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Obama How Now Bow: Update!

I was visiting one of my favourite blogs recently, FireDogLake, and came across this excellent article/find: "Attention Right-Wing Idiots: Nixon Bowed to Chairman Mao."

So, after reading that article I can only come to one conclusion: people see what they want to see. I guess it doesn't matter how many pictures we find of Nixon bowing to various people, or any other presidents, naysayers are still going to condemn Obama for his bows.

I am glad that Blue Texan wrote this article and showed the public that they shouldn't jump to conclusions. There are always various perspectives on any story, but at least make sure you have explored all evidence before you start 'yelling in the streets.'

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Obama How Now Bow?

"si fueris Romae, Romano vivitomore; si fueris alibi, vivito sicut ibi." If you cannot read Latin, this roughly (very roughly) translates to "when in Rome do as the Romans do." I am using this quote to start off my post because it relates to criticism that President Obama has been receiving by the press for bowing to leaders of foreign countries. You all probably remember the media-hoopla that resulted when Obama bowed to the Saudi Arabian King back in April, but Obama is back at it again. This time, he bowed to the Japanese Emperor Akihito.

It seems however that some people find this appalling and shameful. In the comments section of a article on Obama's bow one commentator wrote: "Ass Kisser." Another comment reads "I think I just threw up in my mouth." Is it really that bad? Seriously? Am I just too liberal minded to not get the jaw-dropping significance of this act?

In my opinion I do not see anything wrong with bowing. When you are visiting another country and you meet the president, king, emperor, etc. of that country, I think it is polite to bow. What would the critics of his bows have Obama do? When a foreign leader goes to shake Obama's hand, have Obama extend his hand and then at the very last second take it away and then rub it through his hair while yelling out "syke!"???? Come on people, you know that the United States doesn't really have the best public image in many of the countries around the world. Obama is acting as a visiting dignitary should: respectful and dignified.

Some people have stated that "the Emperor did not return the bow." While this is true, I am not sure these same people have noticed how much younger Obama is than the Emperor. If you watch the youtube video you can notice that the Emperor is much older and probably not as spry as Obama. During the bow in the video at 0:11 you can notice that the Emperor is caught off guard by the bow, and by the time he is about to return the gesture, Obama is finished. It is not a sign of weakness, it is a sign of courtesy.

So in conclusion, I would not to tell people to stop trying to turn Obama's kindness and dignified actions into something they are not. I seriously do not believe he is communist; he is not showing weakness or subservience; he is just plainly acting like a political figure should act. What I argue is that, like the Latin quote I started this article with, courtesy in a foreign country goes a long way and it is especially important for political figures who are in the media and public spotlight. Maybe people have been subjected to Bush for too many years to remember what political diplomacy and courtesy actually look like.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

'Inappropriate' Apparently Has a New Meaning

I am sure that many of you have probably heard about Carrie Prejean's antics on Larry King Live, but for those of you that have not, here is a clip:

I think La Figa gives the best summarization of the video and what actually happened, but I want to get at something else...a larger overarching theme that this brings up. She kept telling Larry that she couldn't talk about her mediation with the Miss USA Pageant and continuously called Larry "inappropriate." She even threatened to leave the show at one point because he was being "inappropriate." However, all he did was ask her a question about the mediation. He never talked down to her; he never insulted her; I don't even think he looked at her the wrong way.

People like Miss Prejean do not make me feel sorry for them. I know some individuals are probably saying "people should leave the poor girl alone, she's been through enough," but is that really Larry King's fault? or other media personalities like him? I don't think it is. She agreed to go on the Larry King Show and I am sure she has agreed to appear on many other shows. We all know that King is going to ask questions that are controversial or get at the crux of what popular media wants to know. So, why is Prejean so oblivious to this? Personally I don't think she is. As you can see from the video, she talks to a 'handler' off screen before she removes her mic. She has people influencing what she says and where she says it. This is purely publicity (as you can probably tell).

So I do not feel sorry for people like Prejean. They agree to be on these shows where they know the host is in control of how the interview questions go. If she wants a pro-Carrie-Prejean-question-period, maybe she should create her own television show, although I don't think many people would watch.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Refusing Vaccination Makes You An Enemy of the State....Apparently

most of you probably know you should get the H1N1 vaccination. And as most of your probably know you shouldn't get the H1N1 vaccination. Kind of confusing isn't it? At least I think so. While I think doctors and healthcare professionals can provide us with useful information on what a person should do, I say this as a generalization. I point this out because I have come across an "Opinion" in the Globe and Mail written by Juliet Guichon and Ian Mitchell. Guichon has a L.L.D., and works in the Office of Medical Bioethics at the University of Calgary (UofC). Mitchell on the other hand is a professor of pediatrics and bioethics at UofC.These two professionals present an article that is pure opinion.

In their article I find three things quite disturbing:

1) When I first read the article I did not like the idea of fear-mongering people into getting the H1N1 vaccination.They state, and I quote:

Mass H1N1 vaccination refusal similarly might destroy (at least temporarily) our health-care system, with the threatened 100,000 people in hospital.

Might destroy our healthcare system! Really? Well, although I agree that H1N1 is very serious and it is important to be informed, people should be free to make their own decisions. Like many people have argued, the seasonal flu kills many people each year, but the popular media has chosen to focus on the H1N1 related deaths to the point that this all that gets reported. We don't get to hear about the hundreds of people that die from other strains of the flu because media has become saturated with H1N1.

2) The second point I find distressing is their comparison to the cod stocks crisis that closed the fishery on the Atlantic coast in the early 1990s. While the article insinuates that Atlantic fishermen were unable to recognize that their overfishing was destroying codstocks, this is simply not the case. Fishermen in Newfoundland for instance, were cognizant of the environmental effects of the fishery as early as the 1900s. Fishing off the coasts had been going on for hundreds of years, so it is not as 'spur of the moment' as Guichon and Mitchell make it seem. What were fishermen to do? Were they to lay down their livelihoods overnight and give up fishing? It is not an easy thing to answer. It may have helped the codstocks, but then again it might not have. Even today, with the fishery being regulated the codstocks aren't back up to normal. So on this comparison, I give them a big thumbs down. People face just as hard a decision over whether to get the vaccine or not as the fishermen did in the 1990s.

3) My last point is to argue against one of their last statements:Moreover, lay people can be confused by publicly available scientific information because they don't understand the scientific method or conversations scientists have among themselvesOh, I'm sorry I guess just because I'm not a doctor I will be easily confused by jargon and acronyms. I have found that the general public, when given the right circumstances to understand something are not as "lay" or dumb as some people like to think they are. If you break the largest, most complicated problem down, it becomes composed of commonsense problems. Give people enough time and energy and they can produce a commonsense answer to a problem (this is in general I might add, there are always extreme cases). We, as non-medically educated people may not be scientists, but I am pretty sure they are using a language of some sort which people have experience with. They may not initially be able to comprehend complex concepts, but they can discern what is important and what is not. ALSO, if Guichon and Mitchell believe the "lay people" to be so misinformed it might have been very helpful for them to actually address some of those issues more explicitly, rather than labeling people that do not get vaccinated as destroyers of healthcare.

People are able to make their own informed opinions, and they should not be guilted into something by either the mass media, government or professionals that present a one-sided opinion. H1N1 may be quite serious, but it still does not change ones individual rights to choose the best course of action for themselves.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

George Orwell's 1984 Wasn't Fiction?

Over the past couple of years I have noticed as many companies, organizations and adminstration have tried to control more and more aspects of people's lives. It is getting to a point where everytime I check out or I find numerous articles that link to some form of oppressive behaviour being carried out by any number of groups. While they may argue that it helps the public in general, the reaction that I have seen online tends to point out that people are outraged by these actions!

For instance, today I read an article about how the LAPD is trying to implement a program called iWatch. Allisson Kilkenny from True/Slant, rightly points out that:

These kinds of anonymous hotlines are ripe for abuse, and there exist endless possibilities of innocent citizens being reported by their neighbors for the crime of “Living While Being Arab.”

It is just appalling that the LAPD and the adminstrative figures who helped get this program up and off the ground thought it would be a useful "tool." Turning each citizen into a sort of cctv camera that is trained to spot "suspicious" activity and report it is not going to work. While it may work by flooding the LAPD with an overabundance of reports, it will almost certainly fail at destroying the fabric of democracy. People should be allowed to live their lives without fear that if they don't act "normal" (whatever that is) or fit into a societal norm, they will be reported as suspicious.

ALSO, people aren't trained informants. I am sure that everyone would have a different definition of what is reportable and what is not. There is bound to be prank calls, and the odd-ball that will report something about his/her neighbour just because they don't like them. I think this system is a low point for society and I applaud people like Allison and the Huffingtonpost who have highlighted this program so that it can be scrutinized.

To formulate your own opinion check out the video:

One of Allison's commentators makes a very astute observation that in the video there are no Muslim people depicted, which therefore leads one to wonder: is this about focusing on the Muslim population? It is a very BIG oversight by the iWatch folks... or is it?


Another form of 1984ism that I have noticed recently is the proliferation of cases the various groups involved with the Record Industry trying to curtail how people interact with their music. Two of the most blaringly obvious cases of their bid for control of how YOU use your music are:

1) The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) tried to argue that cellphone ringtones that could play songs were essentially mini-concerts and therefore were copyright infringement. However, thanks to a levelheaded judge this case was dismissed.

2) A woman in Clackmannanshire, United Kingdom was threatened by the Performing Rights Society (PRS) to be sued if she did not stop signing songs while she worked at a local A&T Food store. However, the group has since rescinded its claims and formally apologized to the woman and sent her flowers.

I just cannot believe that organizations believe that they can enforce such controls over people. It is becoming ridiculous. If we all lived by their rules I think their would be NO music to listen to and you would have to have numerous liscenses before you could play a note. It seems like we are heading for a surveillance society more and more each day as stories like the ones depicted above are becoming more numerous. Big Brother is watching...

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Graduate Uprising 10/20

While many of you may be asking yourselves: "What uprising? There was nothing on the news!" I am referring to a particular incident that occurred in one of my graduate school lectures this past Tuesday. Essentially, the Dean came to our class to get an understanding of how the students were responding to the new redesigned program. While in the back of his mind he probably thought, I'll go in and say my typical speech "We have a plan!" and then people will nod, and respond with neutral remarks about how the courses are "going okay." (for a detailed recap of what happened visit Chasing the Muse) HOWEVER, what resulted was far from a lukewarm-rebuttal. The students had become very distraught over the way the courses were being taught, their size and the sheer lack of interrelatedness to what THEY wanted to learn. The Dean was, to sum it up, verbally destroyed. I don't think he was expected such flak from the students over the new program. The uprising had begun.

People should be able to voice their opinions on a topic that has direct ramifications to their lives. This particular incident helped to make the problems, that probably are not visible to the faculty because they are too engrossed in their work, more explicit. The problem I think harps back to one of the problems someone voiced at the Dean's lecture: alienation. In a graduate program you would think intimacy with your faculty and students would be a keystone. When I completed my previous graduate degree I knew my professors VERY well, and we would even have the occasional get-together-for-drinks social event. But most importantly, we as graduate students were asked our opinions on what the curriculum should be for future graduate students. The opportunity to influence what courses were relevant and how others could be improved. I am proud to say that WE actually had an effect on what was decided. One of the courses that we felt was redundant was cut and the program was extended, as we requested, to allow for more research. What I am trying to get at here is that I never felt alienated there. In this program, I agree with the people that said they felt alienated. Since the Dean's address was the only time students had been able to voice their opinion, many tempers flared and criticism of all sorts came out. But, what can you expect? People did not feel they had any say in what was happening to them. When people feel powerless in situations that deeply affect their lives, it is not a healthy environment.

I am not sure if students were consulted about the changes that occurred with the program prior to this year, but I think if anymore changes are to happen it is Absolutely necessary! We may all have various programs with how the courses are taught, the overlap, and the content, but a sense of community that includes the faculty is a must in a graduate situation. Without it, we may as well be sheep herded by the shepherd.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

"Socialized Medicine and Me" (With introduction by D.C.)

As most of you know, the whole issue of medical care in the United States is erupting into a big debate over whether to adopt "socialist healthcare" practices (for instance, like the system we have in Canada) or retain their "pay as you go" system. I have already touched on this issue in a previous blog post, but recently, while checking my Facebook, I came across a note that one of friends (who is a philosophy PhD candidate) had something (which I thought was very interesting) to say about the "powder keg" which is the debate surrounding this issue. Here is what he had to say:

Since I've had experience of the British health care system now, I thought I'd throw an anecdote on the pile. Given all the nonsense in the US health care debate right now about death panels and rationing, it seems apt.

I've always gotten headaches, but this April I started having a different kind - the pain was different and in a different location than the ones I used to have. I had a really bad one, and then kept having little ones for about a month. Eventually, I got fed up with being too distracted to read and went to the doctor. I made an appointment for the next morning, a Wednesday. The GP ruled out some of the big scary things (stroke, aneurism) and suggested we consult a specialist. I made an appointment for that Friday. The specialist re-ruled out the big scary things, and was 99% sure about his diagnosis, but figured we should get a MRI just to be safe. If I was still in pain, he said, we'd have done it right then, but since I wasn't, I was on the lowest of the low priority list. I was put on a list, and within a couple of weeks had an appointment for 2 months after my initial visit. When I went in to get the scan done I was actually finished before my scheduled start time. The needle was a pain, but that was it. The doctors confirmed that there is nothing unusual in my head (as for my mind, well, that didn't come up on the scan) and that I'm just susceptible to more than one kind of migraine.

If there were rationing, I wouldn't be getting an MRI at all. If there were serious wait issues, I would still be waiting on the scan. If I was in serious trouble, the scan would have been done right away. Since I'm an international student, I'm covered by the NHS and paid a grand total of £4.80 in bus fare for the whole thing. I'm told I could have gotten an NHS shuttle for free, but couldn't be bothered.

Anyway, I want to go on a nice preachy rant right now, but hopefully the facts of my experience speak for themselves.

P.S. My head's fine, thanks. Well, as fine as it ever was.

(Raymond G. Critch, PhD Candidate, University of Edinburgh)

I will let you, the readers, form your own opinions of his text, but I think it speaks very highly of a "socialist healthcare" system. there are many benefits of being able to walk into a hospital and be treated for your ailments without having to mortgage your house. Also, I don't Stalin will be delivering you your flu shots if it is adopted (just thought I'd point that out).

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

'Down With Socialism Healthcare!' Is It Really That Bad?

Universal healthcare to all! Doesn't seem like a bad plan does it? We Canadian's seem to be getting along pretty good with it. Then why is it such a terrible and unspeakable idea for most American Republicans?

President Obama's idea for a healthcare system reform, I thought, was admirable. He is REALLY trying to change things and not just gloss over the problems while he is in office like... well....GW -cough- However, Republican's aren't prepared to let Obama help thousands of people that have to wait for service or have to pay hefty fees for medical procedures... oh no, they have pulled no stops in their criticism. For instance:

On they report that during a Colorado rally against Obama's healthcare reform a person was quoted as yelling:

"Obama care is sicko" and "our troops did not fight and die for socialism."

And then you have Republican 'tall tales' like the one about Shona Holmes, from Canada, who supposedly received horrible healthcare service for her supposed cancer. The GOP has made her into their spokesperson against the healthcare reform. She has turned into the one example for the whole of the Canadian healthcare system. However, Video Cafe ran a nice story which debunks the whole story, and shows what lengths Republican's are going to discredit the healthcare reform.

What I think really gets the public is the link the Republican's have drawn to socialism (Although the Times provides some very good reasons as well). For many Americans, socialism is what they fought against in wars, and it was deemed a taboo during World War II and the Cold War. People associate it with Hitler and the U.S.S.R. communism. They do not see that they are giving in to stereotypes and how they have been conditioned to respond to concepts such as socialism.

Like Dean Baker points out in his article , referring to the proposed healthcare system:

"The program's huge price tag is equal to about 0.5 percent of projected GDP over the next decade. The Iraq war at its peak cost more than 1.0 percent of GDP."

So what do you think seems to be the more productive move? Support a system that will eventually help people receive the health services they desparately need because they cannot afford them in the present system OR fund a war that is sending troops needlessly into harms way where they are being injured and killed? I don't really think this is a hard decision. Republicans need to look at the long term 'big picture.'