Sunday, July 17, 2011

Weeks 4 and 5... maybe...

I can't remember when the last post was. I guess I will have to look that over while I write this.

I guess the last post was 4th of July. That doesn't help me too much. But we will try anyway. Ok so I guess after that was Medical week. That was a rather long week of constant lectures. Pretty uneventful. Well I guess my drawing has gotten a bit better. I did more drawing then note taking during medical week. I know I'm an awful student, but I wasn't alone. It was a lot of repetitive stuff. We had Professors Cutler and Van Brocklin. I personally like Van Brocklin a bit better but I didn't like the lectures much, from the little I actually listened to. We had 4 lecturers on Friday as well. For that dinner we had Flames, a fancy diner. They had the BEST chocolate cake EVER!!! Ok, maybe not the best but it was really really really really good. And it was HUGE!!!!! So much chocolate!! Everyone was impressed when I finished nearly the entire thing myself. Anyone in my family would have never thought twice about it though.

So that weekend we did San Fran again. We went to Dr. Van Brocklin's lab at UCSF. It was interesting. I just remember seeing all the PET machines and other cool scanning devices. That night we went to Empress of China, I think that was the name. I didn't get anything though cause I'm not a fan of Chinese and I wasn't feeling very well that day.

The fifth week was upon us. This week would probably be the best yet. We visited two labs, Lawrence Livermore and Stanford. We had Prof. Shuh on Monday and he took us to Stanford. We saw the linear accelerator and lots of other stuff there. It was a nice size lab in the hills. After we went to Cold Stone. Yum. I liked David Shuh. During lecture he was the first and only until now to even mention theoretical chemistry as a viable option. It gave me hope because that is likely what I will do. I'm learning that I'm not a huge experimental chemist. I like ideas.

Tuesday we met Trish Baisden, likely one of the most influential nuclear chemists/women/scientists in the world. She is truly incredible. She is one of the top experts and she worked with Greg Chopin and Glenn Seaborg closely. So cool!!! Ali has decided to be her when she grows up. She lectured us. Then on Wednesday we had Paul Mantica, finally. He is the one who sent us all the calls of our acceptance. He is a truly amazing man as well. He is really cool. And I loved his lecture more than any so far. He also gave very inspirational advice later in the day when we had a session with Herb about graduate school. I found out a few things I did not know.

Then Thursday was the best trip so far. We went to Lawrence Livermore. We saw the Seaborg Institute, NIF, and CAMS. Such an incredible place. We listened to Post Docs talk about their research at LL. It was so cool to see people only a few years older than us who know so much. Incredible. Then we went to lunch at a country club. Then we went back to NIF and that was really cool. The most interesting part was not the fact that they focus 192 high intensity lasers at one point and make stuff explode. It was that they made 700 pound KDP crystals. That just blew my mind. I have made KDP crystals and they are not any bigger than a finger nail. 2 ounces maybe... not even close to 700 pounds!!! These things were freakin huge!!!!! It was so incredible. NIF was so cool. Then we went to CAMS. While this wasn't as cool as NIF, I will forever remember it as the place that for some unknown reason, really inspired me to want to continue my research at home.

Friday we had more lecturers. We had Sue Clark and another guy, I can't remember his name. I didn't find them that interesting. It was mostly about environment and protection and safety with radioactive materials and weapons. Afterward was dinner at Bella Mia.

Today is Saturday. And we went to Monterey. We went to the aquarium which was pretty cool. We then went back to Herb's condo. It was small but very nice. We went to the beach for a bit then to the pool. I just relaxed the whole time. I loved it. It was a very stressless day. For once. We had dinner at Tarpy's. It was a steakhouse. I got more chocolate. So yummy. Devil's food cake with chocolate mousse.

Great week overall. Down to the last one...sad... Oh well I guess this had to happen eventually. I just hope that we will keep in touch after this. We have all become so close. I love it. I'm gonna miss everyone here. A lot. Well I guess that's about all for the night. Tomorrow Harry Potter. Tuesday presentations. Thursday final. Saturday leave... Goodnight all.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Fourth of July Weekend

Another weekend down. This weekend was pretty good. We went back to Santa Cruz on Saturday. It was fun. We played lots of volleyball. Went on the boardwalk for a bit. Played more volleyball. Did some frisbee in there. Burned our feet on the sand. Played more volleyball. Then left. Got really burned while I was there. It still hurts. My previous burns on my shoulders which were minor, are now peeling. Now the entire upper part of my back is red. My shoulders and the upper right side of my chest is red. This is pretty sucky. Oh well. Not much can be done now but healing and peeling. Yesterday was spent doing lab reports all day. Two more reports are done now. Two left for the week. This week is looking promising. It's Medical week. Guest lecturers come in and teach about nuclear medicine. And there is only 1 new lab this week. The rest of the week is lectures.

Today was a pretty boring day. 4th of July is just not a favorite holiday of mine. And my mood all day has been gloomy at best. Oh well. I guess it's over now. Got to play lots of pool so that was good. Went to fireworks but I left because they were taking forever and now I'm here. The others I suppose are walking back now. I was told that I didn't miss much though so that makes it a bit better. I guess it's about bed time. Good night all.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Week 3

Well in all honesty there isn't too much to tell for this week. Our professor got some form of illness and had to be out all week. So this week we mostly started late and only had labs. Prayers go out to Professor Heino Neitsche. I only got to hear his lecture last week but he seems so amazing.

So Thursday was our most eventful day. We got to go to the Berkley campus and see all their super high tech gadgets and great stuff. They have so much stuff I can't even remember. We started our day with an hour long car ride. We were greeted by the people on Heino's research team. Unfortunately he couldn't make it himself. We went to the labs that all of them work in. In the HERL (Heavy Element Research Lab), we got fully dressed for the occasion. We got lab coats and gloves (which were so much better than the Nitrile ones I'm used to) and even booties that went over our shoes. We got to see all the glove boxes and other equipment they use in the lab. It was really cool. After that we went to a conference room where we met a bunch of people from Berkley and Heino's team. We were given lunch and presentations on some of the research done there. It was long but fairly interesting despite the fact that I didn't get most of it. I liked the super cool chairs the best though. They had the ability to adjust in every which way you can think of.

So after the presentations we went to the ALS (Advanced Light Source). It was a huge factory-like building in which they had all kinds of lasers and all kinds of different sources and detectors and everything you could think of and more. It was really impressive. After the ALS tour we got to go to the 88 inch cyclotron. And we saw all the super awesome detectors and other uber awesome things. I really can't remember all the things we saw it was such a long, tiring day. I have pictures though and those will hopefully be uploaded sometime soon. After the trip we went to a brewery called Pyramid. And they had everything beer there (not my environment, but it was food I am quite familiar with) and there was a frisbee there too. I really wish I would have picked it up, it was actually cheaper than the one I have now from Target. And it would have been an awesome souvenir. Oh well... So we ate dinner with a few of the team from Berkley. It was a nice dinner.

Today we had lecture with Prof. Steve Yates. I will be completely honest, I really didn't care much for his performance. It was very quiet and he turned me off to learning things today that I would love to actually learn about. I wasn't a fan. Then we had lab after lunch and his special lecture after that. Then we went to dinner at a place called Habana Cuba. It was a Cuban/Puerto Rican place. It was not bad. Probably not something I would go to again but it was ok. Well I think that is it. The plan for tomorrow, since we have the whole next 3 days to ourselves, is to go to Santa Cruz beach again. Volleyball, ultimate, and soccer. OH YEAH!!!!

Oh wow, I can't believe I forgot to talk about the dual tests we had this week. First was the Radiation Safety Final on Tuesday. That was alright, I had 7 wrong which gave me a 81.7%. So that was meh. Then Wednesday was the Midterm for lecture, that was when I learned that I really suck at studying. However, the results of that horrid study session were pretty great. I ended up with 17 wrong which somehow gave me an A-. Not so considering how crappy my studying was. Anyway, just thought I would brag a bit about that.

Friday, June 24, 2011

San Fran and week 2

Wow! I'm really bad at keeping this writing up. Ok quick overview of the week. We had a new professor, Dr. Dale Ensor of Tennessee Tech. We went over like 5 chapters or so this week. But that was the easy part. This week involved lots of lab stuff. We had a report due Monday and a lab to do each day. Then we had reports due also on Thursday and Friday. And there was also a radiation safety quiz and a weekly web quiz. This week was brutal. I'm sitting her at my computer on Friday night so worn out looking back on the week.

Today we had a full day of lecture and two guest lecturers as well. 7 hours total of sitting listening intently (a.k.a. barely keeping my head in a fully upright position). I wish I was able to keep awake for the whole time but it's really hard. Today's lecturers were Heino Nitsche and Brian Powell. They were interesting people. Heino will be our professor next week too. He was an interesting character and a very entertaining lecturer. After the lectures we went to a Japanese seafood and steakhouse. It was hibachi-style cooking with the chef making the food in front of us. That was really cool and it was my first time at anything like it. It was quite an experience and even Vic from the lab came with us. I love Vic he is such a character. Such a friendly guy. So yeah that was my week 2 and tomorrow is Santa Cruz. CAN NOT WAIT to play volleyball and frisbee in the sand on the beach. It will be EPIC!!! And in the morning is Redwood National Park another priceless opportunity. It will be AMAZING!!!!

So now let's backtrack to last weekend. San Fran. It was so awesome. All the students went and the TAs and Herb. Well we first started with the drive over there which was not bad. Apparently according to two other passengers, I'm a good radio DJ. Thanks Nomi and Jordan. Anyway we got there and we, except Herb, got onto a boat that brought us around the Bay and near Alcatraz and under the Golden Gate Bridge. It was so great. The skyline of San Fran is not nearly as skyline-y as Philly or New York, where you can't even see the sky from amongst the buildings. It was a nice city, except for the huge <45 degree roads. They were a pain, literally, to walk up. So anyway, after the cruise thing, we went to the marketplace and got lunch. Some people bought loaves of bread to bring back to eat at the I House, some didn't even make it back. It was really good.

After the marketplace we walked to Chinatown, where a lot of people like to sell fireworks for some reason... Anyway, we went to a few places that had Chinese art and other random trinkets. Probably the most entertaining part was when Kurt shot one of the tapioca balls from his bubble tea at a sign about 25 yards away with his straw. It was pretty amazing. So after Chinatown we made our way toward Union Square. There we went into Girardelli's!!!! YES!!! You know I got a souvenir. I got a pack of 4 large bars with a San Francisco box. And with it I got another free bar that I have been slowly devouring since.

Then we stopped by a few other stores and stuff. By that point it was getting close to the time for dinner. So we took a cable car back to the pier. That was a great trip. It was different definitely. So for dinner we went to Neptune's Palace. It was a pretty good dinner. Then afterwards I shared an amazing chocolate lava cake with Kalee and even Steve gave me a quarter or so of his. Herb stopped me just short of licking the plate. It was so delicious!!! I wish it could have been bigger, oh well. Then after dinner we left for the I House and San Jose. We tried to go to Lombard street but along the way we almost crashed twice and Herb was getting too frustrated to bother. So we just drove past it. Overall it was a very satisfying and entertaining trip. And for anyone who cares, it does get cold, especially in San Fran.

Well tomorrow will be good, hopefully the next week won't be as bad as I'm imagining. 4 lab reports due, on top of a radiation safety final, and lecture mid term. Not to mention going through 4 more chapters of notes. Well I guess we will see...

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Week 1 San Jose

Day 3. Honestly it was really long. I can't remember much of it.

I got up at 7 and went down for breakfast. Then class started at 8:30. This first week we had Professor Paul Benny from Washington State University. He taught us about the history of Nuclear Chemistry, which I actually had learned about, reading the Glenn Seaborg book I borrowed from the Chemistry Department back home. Class is nice here because we get recess. Yeah. Not since 5th grade have I had recess. It's nice though because 3 and 4 hours of lecture is really tough to get through at once. So for recess we went to the courtyard and played frisbee and volleyball. Lots of fun.

Then lunch was at noon and we had an extended period that was intended for a tour but didn't need it considering we have been around the area quite a bit. So lab lecture was after the break period. We learned about radiation safety and different little things from Vic from the lab. Vic was cool enough to let us out at 4 instead of 5.

After class a large group of us went around and took some pictures.

Honestly I don't remember much of the stuff that happened a few days ago. During the walk we went a lot of places. I think this was the day I got quite a few good pictures.

Day 2 of class was fun too this would be the first day in the lab. We got our radiation badges and temporary lab coats and even some new goggles to keep. The first day was spent learning about Geiger counters and working to find radioactive areas in the lab that Vic made for us to practice. We had lots of recess during lab lecture with Vic because he is AWESOME!!

After class was spent doing pretty much nothing. We had a quiz to do from Frank Kinard one of the main professors in charge. I actually just got my results 9.75/10. Oh yeah!

The next day however was much more demanding. We had a real lab to do. It was not child's play but it was cool nonetheless. The day started with class until lunch. Then after lunch was lab lecture and lab. First lab, I got paired with Steve. We did a great job on the sealed sources. It was cool to learn more about how G-M counters work and the data was fun to take. However, working with it afterward was ANNOYING!!!! So tedious. So that night was spent working until about 10 on the report then I just stopped. Bed after that.

Day 5 of San Jose was probably the worst yet. Class was usual, learned a fair amount. Then lunch, lab lecture and lab 2. But after class, dinner then lab report 1 from 6pm to 12pm. That was tiring. And really FRUSTRATING!!!! But Travis and Ali had it worse because they stayed up until 6am doing it. Don't know how they survived today.

Today was not bad so far. About to head to lab lecture and lab. So I shall finish this later.

Update again!

The lectures were pretty good. Still not sure if I really want to do nuclear chemistry though. Dr. Ralf Sudowe and Dr. Paul Carol were the lecturers for the first week. Dr. Sudowe did a presentation on the Japan meltdown. It was really informative and quite enlightening. Dr. Carol did a presentation on high energy reactions, basically smashing really big stuff together. (Well big on the atomic scale!!)

After the lectures, which, while interesting, were still able to make us sleepy, we went to dinner at Teske's, a German restaurant. It was so good. I had veal cordon bleu (a very "German" dish...). We talked with Dr. Benny, our professor for the last week and the other two lecturers and Herb. It was a whole lot of fun.

After dinner ended at 7ish we walked home. When we got back a few of us played pool until bed. Lots of fun was had. And today was even better. San Fran. But that is for another post.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Day 2 San Jose

Day two started with a crappy night sleep. Oh well. Not much could be done. Tired but still surviving. Woke up at 9, showered, then breakfast. After that 9 of us went out with Kurt and played Frisbee and football. Then we walked around Downtown. So much nicer than Philly. It’s like a big city but not. It’s so nice. I like the smaller buildings and more spacious environment. I can’t wait until I can be a tourist and go around taking pictures for everyone to see. We are currently sitting around. Everyone is playing card games. I believe we are going to dinner around 5 (it’s now about 1:30), I think it’s somewhere called the Elephant Bar. I shall return later to update this about the rest of the day.


Well today was a very active day. After the morning activities, a group of us went to the park again and played Frisbee and kicked the new volleyball. Then Kurt joined and threw Frisbee. Then played volleyball without a net. Then Ali, Kalee, and Logan joined as well and we played volleyball for a few hours. Then we went back to the I House to get cleaned up before dinner.

Around 5, we went to the Elephant Bar. I had way more food than I have had in a long time. I was so full. Steak and shrimp and brownie dessert. So delicious. We also had a professor and Herb and his wife come with us along with Kurt and Brandon. Afterward we went back to the I House and Ali and I decided we wanted to tourist it up and take pictures of the surrounding area. Eventually a bunch of others joined in and we had a group of about 10 people walking around. We ended up taking few pictures but it was fun nonetheless. So Ali and I will go around tomorrow or some other day to take more pictures. When we got back Travis, Jeff and I went to the basement and played a bit of pool before bed. And that is the end of day 2. Tomorrow is the first day of classes and I am pretty nervous/excited. We shall see how this goes.

Day 1 San Jose

Well first day is complete but there is no internet currently so this will probably go up pretty late. Anyway. First day. Got on first plane in Philly at around 6am EST. Got to Minneapolis at around 8am local time which means the flight was around 3 hours (yeah first time zone switch). Then met up with my awesome roommate Travis because we luckily picked the same flight to San Jose. We got out plane around 9:30 ish local time and then landed in Cali at 11:30 ish Pacific time (meaning the flight was 4 hours).

We landed and found Brandon, one of our awesome TAs. He gave us a tour of the local area and gave us some tips about the class seeing as he was in our boat last year. Eventually we got to the I-House, our home for the next 6 weeks. There we got a room and keys to everything. We met up with the only people here before us, Ali and Jordan. We moved our stuff in and during that time Jeff also moved in. Then all 5 of us took a long walk around the area. We got lost and really had an interesting time trying to figure out where we were going. Eventually when we made our way back, I just happened to make a lucky guess of which street our building was on. Apparently now I am the designated direction rememberer.

So when we got back we met with Kalee another of the girls here. Then a few of us went with Brandon to find out where the gym is. When we returned Travis, Jeff and I went to the basement to play foosball and pool. Eventually Kalee also joined. Ali had fallen into a coma like sleep while she was in her bed. Later we got pizza for dinner and the 5 of us (Ali was still sleeping) ate with Herb, one of the professors in charge, and the TAs, Brandon and Kurt, also students from last year. We all talked about the program and all the interesting and fun stuff that will happen while we are here.

After dinner Ali, Kalee, Travis, Jeff and I all went around and tried to look for a park where we could play Frisbee. This took way longer than intended because eventually we realized we were going the wrong direction. When we finally made our way to the real park we threw for quite a while. Then we found a trail that lead to a little stream-like body of water and we stayed there and talked for a while. By the time we left it was well after 8pm. Then we came back to greet our other classmates who had just arrived or otherwise had yet to arrive.
When we found all those who had arrived, we made our ways to the basement again. We played some pool. We talked about ourselves. By the end of this bonding time it was well after 11pm if not midnight. I was falling asleep sitting up. And so concludes our first day at Nuclear Summer School. Day 2 looks to be fun. We shall see.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Murder of Osama Bin Laden

Well you knew it was coming. As I sit here watching a white house conference something-or-other I need to get some ideas down.

Death of Osama
So what was it, 3 days ago now that he was killed? From what I know about the actual murder, a team of "elite" soldiers were sent in and they captured and killed Osama Bin Laden. They shot him multiple times (I think in the head and the chest). They took photos and analyzed them before to determine that they were 95% sure it was him. After the killing they took DNA and all kinds of other evidence to make sure it was actually him. Apparently shortly afterward they dumped his body into the sea/ocean/other body of water. Of course this led to conspiracy theories right away.

Reactions to the Murder
What was your first reaction when you heard? Patriotically, most people are extremely happy. I'll admit, I think my first thought was more skepticism than anything. I saw it first on yahoo and I was skeptical because of my lack of confidence in media. Then I started seeing it on facebook and I thought: oh I guess this is legit. Then it was rumors from there. I will talk more about my ideas in the next section. So some reactions I have heard: Overwhelmingly, people are really happy, to the point of celebrating in the streets; Some are skeptical of the death and are concocting conspiracy theories like mad; Some are nervously awaiting the retaliation from other Al Qaida members; Very few (one such example is Steelers RB, Rashard Mendenhall) are actually thinking about this as a very extreme reaction, he believes that celebrating a death is not a great thing to be doing. This brings me to my beliefs of all this nonsense.

My Idea of It All
My thoughts on people's reactions: people are worse than me. I have awful thoughts about some people and I think everyone probably does at some point. In fact, I have some really messed up ideas that run through my head sometimes. But I still don't believe that the death of one man should be celebrated to the extent it has been. And the fact that so many people desire to see the pictures of his dead body just makes me realize how sadistic the general public really is. Why this is such a huge victory to all these people, is what I want to know.
Just because one member of the terrorist group is gone, does not mean that the group has disbanded. They are still a group of radical believers no matter if their leader has been killed.
Just because this one man is dead, no person killed in the September 11th attack has been returned or anything else beneficial like that. It was just like avenging any other person's death by killing the perpetrator.
Some people think that it should not be talked about so that Osama does not get more attention than necessary. I don't see what's wrong with this at all. I would prefer not to hear about it 24/7. Plus based on the common belief of hatred for him, we should probably stop celebrating him altogether. I mean, no one celebrates Hitler or Stalin as far as I know.
Why is there such a desire to see this post mortem photo? This is a concept of need for direct proof vs government trust. I can't say I trust the government completely because there is more than enough problems I have with politics. However, this is a case where there is no reason for anyone to lie. Why would the government need to lie about this? It seems senseless at this point in time.

Another thought I have heard on one of these newscasts is the idea that other terrorists will use Osama's death as a martyr to justify more attacks and take revenge. Ok first of all, I am pretty sure this person may have two completely different ideas intertwined which do not belong together. Martyrs, from what I know, is a person who dies for their beliefs and they are then revered for their sacrifice. Is that not correct? Ok, if that is correct then why would someone who believes in that person as a martyr take revenge? Osama would not be a martyr if the US did no kill him, so why would other radical Muslims take revenge for the killing. I am not trying to say they would not retaliate and fight the US but this would not be out of revenge, it would be out of devotion and desire to join him. So they could either use him as a martyr or they could take revenge, not both together. It may seem like a minor technicality, but it was just something that annoyed me.

Alright I think this is enough for now. I have input my ideas.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Atheism, much too radicalized

Alright, I will admit I use the stumbleupon application a lot. And I have a good number of topics which I am very interested in. Religion is one of these many topics. However, it seems that of these religion sites I get, the most common ones are of atheism.

Now I believe atheism is too misunderstood to have so much attention, and it always has. No one has ever understood the reasoning for or the belief of atheism. I hope that this post will enlighten a few people about some belief systems and their implications, at least as far as I know them.

Now some people have this belief that there is either science or religion. Science, things like evolution and physics and archaeology, are concepts which are based off of what we call scientific data and analysis. Tests have been performed over and over to find out the amount of truth value for these theories. This is the basis of science as we know it. Religion is no based on these values. Religion is based on faith and tradition. Religion is just another way for people to explain things.

Now anyone who has read some of my past blogs should be aware that I believe strongly in science. I am not a person big in faith for anything other than science. However, I do not believe that religion is wrong. I believe that science is my faith system. I do not have much of a religion system though.

Atheists and non-atheists of the internet both have the same idea of atheism. They will not admit this but they all believe exactly the same thing. Atheists of the internet are the same as theists of the internet. They openly discredit and denounce other religious beliefs and they attack those who aren't "enlightened" as they are.

I will just say that I don't believe that atheists are necessarily wrong in their ideas, but they are certainly wrong in these attacks. That isn't to say that theists are not wrong as well for the attacks they deal. No one is right for attacking another person when they have no idea themselves as to what the correct answer actually is.

Overall the concept of atheism is not only used to denounce other religions but it is also used simply because only the basic ideas are understood. Most who have atheist websites and other webpages use the ideas of atheism incorrectly. This, to me, seems to an incorrect way to believe in something. These people should stop wasting their time posting incorrect ideas and start researching what real atheism is.

Atheism is not the belief in science. It is not the belief of anti-Christian/Jewish/Islamic/etc. ideas. Atheism is the system of beliefs that there is no god. It is not a group of religion haters. It is a group of people who do not belief in a deity. There are both theists and self-proclaimed atheists who think that atheists believe in science and "know" based on science that there is no god.

Again this is simply a misunderstood and misused belief system. It is used by outsiders as a scapegoat for religious wrongs. It is used by radical believers as a way to rationalize their being "right" and everyone else being wrong.

Overall, atheism is overused and abused by those who misunderstand. I hope that people realize these things and I can stop reading about how wrong everyone else is who believes is anything. There is no reason religions and belief systems need to attack one another. No one really knows what's going to happen thus there is no true answer. Why can't people just see that?

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Humans' Problems

Well obviously I have been neglecting my blog for quite a while. I suppose some of my current thoughts should be written down though.

These thoughts have mostly been brought on by the anthropology class I have been taking this semester. I am sure it will seem quite stream of consciousness because some of the ideas have been dormant for a little while now. But the main thought I wish to convey, while I sit in the cool breeze and warm sunlight and listen to the birds and construction around me, is that humanity has far too many problems. And as far as I can see there is only one solution: catastrophe. The human species has "progressed" to a point from which there is no turning back. We as Homo sapien have come to a cross roads. Do we:
1. continue to destroy the home which we need so much
2. attempt to fix the problems we have caused, with little chance of success
3. halt all immediate "progress" and correct the wrongs we have committed
4. create or await a catastrophe which will assist us in starting over

This is a choice that cannot be chosen by a select few. It must be a unanimous decision and one in which all who exist must partake. Now it seems fairly obvious to any reader that I am making such bold statements at this point in time, but for what reason, what are these problems of which I speak. I will tell you now that there are far too many for me to summarize in one sitting, probably more than I could summarize in a single lifetime. So I will just speak of the ones that come to mind while I write. And of course, since I am little aware of many issues outside my own home, I will probably not be discussing many foreign ideas, mostly USA-domestic concepts.

I shall begin with a few subjects brought to my attention recently in my anthropology class. The first is our complete ass-backward sense of criminal justice in the USA. The US has likely, the worse prison system in the world. It costs $65,000 for every criminal in prison. The US also has one of the highest imprisonment rates in the world. Approximately 1 in every 99 people in the US is in prison. That is over 1% of the population and at the cost of $65k per criminal, that's a hell of a lot of money. How are these prisons run? They are essentially 2-3 star hotels. They are fed and have TV and don't have many worries. Compared to many of their normal lives, they are more than content with being in prison. Not only that but they are around other criminals as well and these people learn from each other. They can learn skills and other things from the veteran criminals. These skills will help them become better at what they do when they leave the prison. And how is anyone being helped by the prison system? Well the private agencies who own the prison get all that money that tax payers pay for the prisons. The prisoners learn to become better criminals. And the other people of the country get to pay those bills just to have a never ending process of criminals being put into prison and going back on the streets a few years later to just return to doing what they do best.
The proposition from my anthropology teacher and a book we have read on the subject is to teach these people. Teach these criminals useful skills (such as finding a decent job to benefit society), give them some help if needed (such as psychological treatment for any mental disorders they may have), give them a decent education which many criminals do not have. We need to help them, not simply punish them and not tell them what they should change. And this leads to a connection and where I wish to lead to next. Corporations and organizations that own these prisons and almost every other industry in the US and the world.

This concept in and of itself should be a crime. Corporations and other large companies are not an area which I know a great amount about, but from what I do know this concept sounds like a complete sham. These companies have immense amounts of power and they are able to do essentially whatever they want. For example the prison system is in the shits, so why hasn't it been fixed? That's because these private owners, these companies, make a crap load of money. They don't want this system to change because they are making more money than most of those people who pay these expenses can even dream of. This is not only the case in prisons in the country. This also has a huge impact in our foreign policy. We have corporations who basically own entire countries and peoples. For example the people of Puerto Rico are and were being forced out of their own home because of the corporations who own land and plantations there. These corporations are running the lands ragged until their will soon be no nutrients left in the soil and nothing will be able to survive. The same is true of the oil in Trinidad. The people living there have so much oil they do not even realize how rich they could be. Unfortunately, due to the English colonization and the US continuation of these ideas, the Trinidadians have no ownership of their own resources. These corporations have all the power over the oil in this region and the riches of it are obtained by the upper 1% of the population (much like the riches of the USA which I will get to later). Not only are corporations influential in foreign topics and in the criminal justice system, they are also very persistent in domestic politics. These corporations have to save themselves, they have to make sure that the people who run the government will not turn on them. Thus they need to "donate" to their protectors, not to those who will make a better society. These corporations are criminals whom no one will ever convict because they have lots of power. These corporations have all the money in the world and people have been taught the mindset that money is everything. Which brings me to the next topic: money.

Money is the root of all evil. This statement makes itself clearer and clearer everyday in my mind. I, as a minimal materialism type of person, try to avoid the concept of money as much as I can. For as long as I can remember, I have had a problem with the "capitalistic" system. It is highly overrated, especially since people do not seem to realize, it really is not all that capitalistic anymore. For whatever reason people always seem to associate socialism and communism with "un-American." And yet we still systems like social security and welfare to assist those who cannot survive themselves. People are confused. Of course, I too have minimal understanding of all these concepts (hell I can't even do my own taxes completely, my dad still does them). I just do not feel that capitalism is all the people think it is. Money is just pieces of paper and metal now. There is no longer any gold backing up the system anymore. There is too much money in circulation to be backed with gold; it cannot be mined fast enough. And where does all that money go? The 1% of people who possess >70% of the power in this country. "What life is this we live?" I could not have chosen a better url for this blog. But I suppose this is the concept that we consider the American way, huh? Seems pretty sucky to me.

I was going to go into another concept which is blinding us, but I feel like there will be another time and place for it. I will briefly state my opinion on it though. Religion vs. Science. I have written about it several times but I do not think that my point has been on the mark yet. This is officially what I believe at this time and it truly makes the most sense to me now. There should be no battle at all, these concepts are completely separate. There is no one true comparison between the two. Religion was created on the basis of faith , whereas science was created on the basis of multiple trials and testing theories and trying to find some explanation for what happens around us. These are no longer conflicting in my mind. I will discuss this more at another time I am positive.

Nature is the only true asset we have on this planet. Why do we insist on destroying it? I understand using assets to our advantage, but the rate at which the advantage is taking is also of importance. See people do not seem to realize what limits there are in nature. There is only a limited amount of resources we have available. Not only that but people also do not seem to realize how much we are using these materials. I cannot even begin to discuss all the uses and purposes we attach to certain materials. There are so many things that are being done by humans that discussing all of them would take another lifetime. However, my major intention here is to bring to your attention the destruction that is occurring and has been occurring of the plant and animal life of the world. This needs to be reversed quickly. There have been more endangered species to come about since the beginning of the industrial era due to human over-indulgence than species that died off at the K-T mass extinction. (I will admit that this may be a bit of an exaggeration but it is not all that far fetched.) We need to conserve our resources, if not so that we can live a bit longer, at least so that we are able to looked at the majesty and beauty of nature.

And one last topic I have thought of that has been a major pain in my side for a lengthy time. The overt maelstrom of ignorance that people have and they are presented with in today's society. There is so little necessity in these distractions that are presented. Celebrities are my biggest pet peeve. Celebrities are one of the biggest problems with today's society. It is a complete nuisance. Why must we know the latest sex scandal of one or another person? (Many of these ideas can also be applied to politicians). Is there any reason for that? Why do we have to know about this famous preteen youth who does drugs in her spare time? Is there any significance in our own lives? No, not really. If anything this just makes it impossibly harder for people to live decent lives. Looking at these actors and actresses, sex symbols, and musicians as role models is destroying individuals. These obsessive people and other relatively average people look up to famous people as if the famous life is the only thing they need. Thus they follow in the footsteps of some "famous", but truthfully normal, person. Celebrities are not any better than anyone else. They are normal people who are able to play music or imitate someone else. They have very few special skills and they, for the most part, have no real benefit to society, other than providing a distraction from reality (which I am proposing is a bad thing). Not only this but going back to the money issue, these people possess more money than any one person who has actually done something of importance to society, I am 90% positive of that. There are millions of other distractions that this society has which are awful for civilization as a whole. Things like videogames and entertainment TV are awful, but I will not deny I partake in them more than I should. There are far too many distractions in this world for anyone to be able to concentrate on the true issues.

These are the problems of society. These are the things that need to be changed. Now going back to my proposed solutions.
1. continue to destroy the home which we need so much
2. attempt to fix the problems we have caused, with little chance of success
3. halt all immediate "progress" and correct the wrongs we have committed
4. create or await a catastrophe which will assist us in starting over

Number 1, is not a solution, of that I am convinced. That is just continuing what we are doing now and not helping anyone. With that option we will all be dead before the end of this century.
Number 2, that is what we are lazily attempting to do. We have a few minute initiatives to fix a couple of our minor problems. That is not going to help much, we may make it out of this century but not much further than that.
Number 3, this sounds like a decent solution to me. But looking at the current record of society, there is approximately 0% chance of that seeing the light of day. I guarantee that none of you would stop watching your favorite celebrity shows on TV and start looking into ways to fix our economy. I guarantee that no one is willing to stop researching things that will make them money, and start researching things that will actually fix our interactions with the environment. These types of changes are not characteristic of humans.
Number 4, this is the only option I believe will work with a group as stubborn as Homo sapien. As implausible as it is there is little choice in the matter. We need to do something. My proposition is a worldwide EMP. This will not only stop our technological progress but it will set us back a few generations. Of course this will not help much once we rediscover electricity but it may assist in slowing us down to a point at which we can actually stop and think.

Society is moving too fast, that is the major issue here. And that is what needs to be solved. If we can fix this, we may be able to fix ourselves and survive for a bit longer in this existence, not as individuals but as a species. Of course this concept of backing up would result in many moral problems, like mass deaths, but my question about that is: Is that really a problem? Overcrowding is a major problem as well. A few deaths for the benefit of an entire species. As the Christians say, "What would Jesus do?" Or perhaps it is more appropriate to ask, what did he do?

Just more thoughts on my mind. Criticize all you like. Perhaps you too will teach me something as I hope I may teach you something.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Pacific Religions (New Idea Post 1)

Well it's been quite some time since my last post. I have learned quite a bit since my last posts. Both about myself and about all kinds of other topics. I have also come up with a new idea of blogs to post. I recently picked up a book on the religions throughout the world. My plan is to find whatever time I can and read sections of this book and write about the religions I learn about. This will both give me and my readers some knowledge that hopefully they never knew.

Well on to the first post: Religions of the Pacific

Alright well I wanted to start off in a more simple way, by reading the shortest chapter. This way I could see how well this all worked out. I didn't feel like reading the 100+ page section on Christianity just to end up getting bored with it and not wanted to post anything on it. Anyway, so this section was split into 4 different regions of people. Indonesia, Australia, Melanesia, and Polynesia. The group each seemed quite different considering their close proximity.

These groups were each originally written about by foreigners, who tended not to be worried about being objective. Thus, the stories from the past can hardly be very trustworthy. And the groups themselves had no way of writing their ideas and beliefs considering they had no written language. So the few ideas which are in this book came from more recent researchers and writers who tried to get ideas down from the older generations before they are gone forever.

Each of these groups has a very different idea of the world around them. The Indonesians believe in a Mother Earth and a Father Sky. These beings are married and eventually separate. This marriage though, results in the major crop of the area, rice. They also believe that the earth is inhabited by both humans and spirits. They believe in a cosmic order which must remain in balance, and in order for this to happen all humans, spirits and animals must behave correctly. All groups in Indonesian culture believe in an afterlife.

Australian groups themselves believe different ideas. South-eastern Australian believe that a male supreme being lives in the sky, while northern Australians believe in a Mother Earth figure. There is also a Rainbow Snake, which can be either male or female, associated with rain and water. The Rainbow Snake is believed to be the first creator. The Australians are very bound to nature, their religion is a for of Totemism. They are a non-materialistic people. They believe that the spirit exists before birth and survives after death. However, contrary to several Western religions, they do not believe in heaven or hell, the spirit just remains on the land.

Melanesian people believe in ancestor-spirits who can affect the lives of their living descendants. The people of Melanesia also believe in magic and even practice sorcery. Sometimes premature deaths and suicides cause suspicion of sorcery. If the person is not paid-back the spirit will not be able to journey on to its final destination.

Polynesian people belief in a god creator who made the cosmos from an original void (parallel to Big Bang Theory?). Then the Earth and Sky (similar to Indonesian belief) created lesser gods who in turn created humans and now preside over human concerns, like warfare and forests (much like other ancient belief systems). There are also lesser spirits and ghosts and demons on this earth. The living Polynesians trace their family line back to the land of Hawaiki where the spirits of the dead return to rest. The chief has direct access to the spiritual power of god.

Unfortunately many of these beliefs have been either replaced or at least tainted with other Western religions, like Christianity, Hinduism, and others. So there is very little pure Nativism left in the Pacific.

I think about these religions, well at least as much is presented by the editor and I see similarities between Catholicism and even the science that I follow. It is pretty intriguing, at least to me, just how similar people are. I mean the people who live on islands in the Pacific with relatively little outside contact, and people in the center Europe thousands of years ago, and the people who have been industrializing for hundreds of years; all these groups have ideas that all, minus a few details, sound really similar. I can't wait until I get to the more in-depth sections of Christianity and Islam and Judaism just to see what minute details I can find which are different from one another.

Well I suppose, to avoid internet plagiarism I should probably post the book information and give them their due credit.

"The Penguin Handbook of the World's Living Religions", edited by John R. Hinnells, Penguin Books, 2010