Saturday, July 30, 2011

Using Marijuana is Dangerous and Stupid (by Mr. Thickskull)

Marijuana is an illegal substance in the United States, including the state of Wisconsin, and it is rightly so.

Marijuana ruins lives and makes normal people become idiots, and it is a very dangerous psychoactive drug, which is why people who use marijuana are stupid.

1) When people start using marijuana, they automatically sway towards other dangerous drugs as well, such as crack, cocaine, ecstasy, heroine, etc. because marijuana is a "gateway drug". This means, that when people start using marijuana, the world of those other drugs I listed above opens up for them, and people are likely to enter it. This is why marijuana must remain illegal. If it were legalized, who knows how many more horrible drugs everyone would start doing as well?!

2) Marijuana impairs your motor skills. So, to use marijuana and drive is just as dangerous (if not more dangerous) as as it is to drink alcohol and drive. If marijuana were legalized, people would probably drive around high even if it were still illegal to drive high (because people still drive around drunk, even though that is illegal), and as a consequence of this, we would most likely see the rate of accidents/injuries/deaths double, if not triple, the rate of accidents/injuries/deaths already caused by drunk drivers.

3) Marijuana harms your lungs.... probably even more so than smoking cigarettes. And I bet some day we will learn without a doubt, that smoking marijuana increases the risk of developing cancer just as much, if not more, as smoking tobacco does. Furthermore, marijuana causes increased heart rate and panic attacks. This happens to me when I get on airplanes and go in elevators, and it is extremely frightening, and can cause sudden death.

4) A short term effect of marijuana is loss of memory. This is dangerous in situations like cooking, because you might burn your meal, or forget the recipe. Or when you are trying to leave the house, but you keep forgetting where you put your keys. Or you forget what the score is, or whose serve it is, while playing tennis. Or you forget you already fed your cat.

5) Marijuana draws people away from reality. People become paranoid and introspective. They start thinking to themselves a lot, and reflecting on their situation, who they're with, where they are, what they're doing, and what they’re thinking. This is an unnatural and unfamiliar state of existence that people should not experience. Marijuana changes brain activity and makes people think differently and form dangerously high levels of awareness. It’s not good when people get too absorbed in their own thoughts, and end up out in space somewhere, curiously gazing at the stars, or watching Planet Earth, muted, while listening to Pink Floyd, or some other hippie garbage.

6) Marijuana causes delayed reaction time. It slows people down, so they act like idiots when they're high because they don't respond immediately to questions, or get up right away when the phone rings. This slowing down means that all people can do when they’re high is stuff that requires little to no mental work, such as sit on the couch, watch TV, sleep, play video games, indulge in munchies, and have intercourse.

7) According to some sources, marijuana use is positively correlated with later onset of schizophrenia and depression. This means that the more marijuana one consumes early in life, the more likely it is that one will develop one of these mental disorders later on. What’s more, according to an article I read from a 1923 U.S. newspaper, smoking marijuana causes murderous thoughts.

8) Another short term effect of marijuana is the inability to learn and retain information. If marijuana were legalized, people would probably start using it at work and school all the time. And since it is impossible to do a good job at anything while high on marijuana, people in school and work would fail miserably, and our whole society would probably crumble within a year, or less.

9) Marijuana is addictive, just like other drugs such as heroine and crack. So once people start, they grow dependent on it, and they must get treatment in order to stop.

These are all actual effects of the harmful drug marijuana, and they apply to everyone who uses it. I myself, for the reasons above, have never smoked or ingested marijuana ever in my life, and I never will. There is nothing good or safe about using marijuana, and if you do it, you will probably do even more dangerous drugs, get cancer, crash your car, lose the ability to function normally in society, perform terribly at work and school, overfeed your cat, and look like a complete idiot.

In my opinion, people should just stick to what is legal - alcohol. Alcohol is not even a drug, nor could it do the kind of harm that marijuana can, and it is strictly reserved for those who are over the age of 21. With alcohol, you can let all of your emotions run wild, and be sociable, carefree, happy, not withdrawn, and have the courage to say/do things you would never say/do normally (while with marijuana, you naturally become unmotivated, withdrawn, stupid, and slow, so you never really do anything at all).

Also, if you're one of those people who claims to use marijuana for chronic pain or anxiety or something, you should try to get prescription drugs from doctors instead (such as Oxycontin, Percocet, Xanax, etc.). Those are much safer.

So be safe and smart - don't use marijuana, because it is illegal for so many good reasons! Just stick to the legal stuff - alcohol and prescription drugs. It is for your own good!


Mr. Thickskull

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Plagiarizing is for idiots (by Charles)

Plagiarizing is for idiots.  I am teaching a three-week summer course right now and I have already caught three students plagiarizing on papers.  With 30 students I do expect to catch maybe one student plagiarizing, but I've caught THREE students on the first of three papers!  WTF

On one hand, I get the lure of copying someone else's work as one's own.  The lifted material might sound really good and copying saves time.  On the other hand, those two things (sounding good and saving time) are deceptive.  You see if it sounds really good, it might sound too good.  I have a good sense as to the level of writing any particular student should be writing at.  Give me five minutes with a students and I can peg the approximate the grades the student will probably get on papers.  So if the writing and concepts written are much better than what I expect, I go to Google with some of that writing and usually find it on the web someplace.  Gotcha!

And that saving time bit, if the copying and pasting actually does save you time, it probably means that you did a poor job plagiarizing and you'll get caught.  To do a really good job plagiarizing means that a student will have to spend considerable time masking the plagiarism so that the professor won't notice it.  To do a good job means: (1) possibly simplifying highly academic concepts to make them more believable coming from a student, (2) possibly simplifying highly academic vocab and writing, (3) possibly introducing spelling/grammar/punctuation mistakes to make the copying not seem like copying, and (4) mixing and matching plagiarized paragraphs AND sentences so that they are not as easily searchable.  If a student does all that, there isn't any time saved.  The student might as well just used his or her own words.  Besides, even if a student does all that, the likelihood of still getting caught is really really high because we have services like TurnItIn to catch even the best of plagiarizers.

What I really don't understand is why risk it?  Plagiarism comes with STEEP penalties!  I know a professor who will immediately fail a student for the slightest plagiarism, and then make the student retake the class with that professor.  Some are more lenient, but the cost is still usually high - most likely an F for the assignment.  Basically you lose big time.

I don't know.  Maybe plagiarism happens so much more than I know about and students figure that the risk is quite low.  How would I know?  But the risk is still there regardless.

Plagiarizers are idiots.  You don't go to school to hone your skills at cheating.  Cheat in your job and you'll probably get fired.  You go to school to learn to be better at all the right things: thinking, writing, speaking, (re)solving, remembering, collaborating, and adapting.  Plagiarizing just doesn't make the list.  Why?  Because it's idiotic.

What really sucks for me, however, is that catching and confronting plagiarizers takes more time than if the student just wrote the damn like he or she is supposed to.  When I'm fighting to hit grading deadlines, I don't need some schmuck plagiarizing and sucking away my needed time.  Just drop out of school and go home if you are going to plagiarize!

Monday, July 18, 2011

It's all meaningless (by anon)

It’s all a waste.  Before I was born, there was meaningless.  After I die, there will be meaningless.  The universe is a big mess of meaninglessness.

I was walking outside late last week and I looked up into the sky.  I saw a very sparkly red star.  I thought it was Mars.  I was wrong.  It was Arcturus.  After a bit of checking things out on the web, I found out that Arcturus is about 25 times the size of our sun.  The sun is about 109 times as big as the earth, so Arcturus is really really big.  Visually, that looks something like this:

I was starting to feel small…until I came across this pic:

Antares is about 800 times the size of our sun.  It is so big that our sun is only one pixel in the image above.  A photon of light takes about one hour for it to travel around the diameter of Antares, and light ain’t no slow poke (~671 million mph).  If Antares were our sun, its edge would reach beyond the current orbit of Mars (and Mars is the fourth planet from our sun for those who need to think about it).  Antares is huge!  Antares is so huge that I cannot really begin to fathom how there can be something that big in our universe (and Antares isn’t even the biggest!).  I feel smaller than the smallest.  No…smaller.

And now I can’t get it out of my head that we (humans) are just some lucky little accident that happened on some tiny, rinky-dink rock floating out in a rinky-dink solar system.  The universe is so big (SO BIG) and we are so small (SO SMALL).  I look out at our buildings, at our people, at our books and we give them so much meaning.  Everything around us has meaning because we put it there.  We are born into it and we die in it.  But we are but a blip.  We are an accident.

One day this will all end.  A large comet will someday strike the earth or a large solar flare pointed in just the right direction will completely annihilate all life on earth.  And all the history we have, all the knowledge we have gained, all the technology we have developed will vanish without a trace.  All our great thinkers will be turned to nothingness, as if they never thought at all.  This is probably the single most humbling thought I’ve had.  We think we are so special – humanity – but one day all record of us will be gone.  As if we never existed at all.

There’s a probability that a large enough comet might hit the earth around 2030.  Maybe our dance with destiny is sooner rather than later.

Saying that this is all a waste is too strong.  I guess I should probably say that it is what it is and leave it at that.  But whatever – we are so much smaller than we can possibly comprehend and yet we think we are so big.  Meaningless.  From dust to dust.  From meaninglessness to meaninglessness.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Prayer and Reparative Therapy (by anon)

I’ve done a fair share of praying in my lifetime.  I have prayed to get girlfriends, to be healthy, to ease the pain of others, for world peace, for jobs, and everything else you can probably think of.  I have prayed quick prayers, long prayers, prayers while I was alone, and prayers in groups.  I’ve prayed prayers from the Bible and I’ve made up my own.  In all my years of praying, have any of these prayers amounted to anything?  Could I have ever said, “Look there!  That is a direct result of my prayer.”  NO.  How would I ever know?

So with prayer, there is a big problem with knowing if prayer even works.  A child gets deathly sick with cancer.  One faction of people prays their lungs out for God to heal the child.  Another faction invests all their time into medical and scientific recourses for action.  A course is chosen, the child “miraculously” beats the cancer, and both sides claim responsibility.  For every event that people pray and claim responsibility, there is always a competing “natural” explanation for the turn of events.  How could one ever know that prayer and prayer alone was responsible for something?  In short, one can’t.

But if you have been reading this so far and going along with my understanding of prayer, there’s an even bigger problem than the knowledge problem.  That is the problem of hubris.  “Hubris” means excessive pride or arrogance.  If you are someone who prays, then you are an arrogant SOB.  Yes, that is right.  You think so highly of yourself that you need to seek help.

Why?  Think about what prayer is supposed to mean.  To pray to God for some action to happen on earth, you are in effect saying that you have the power to possibly change God’s mind.  You believe that God SHOULD listen to you, take your concerns into ultimate consideration, then act on those concerns because your concerns trump all other considerations God has before God.  What hubris!  The nerve for you to think that you know better than God or that your plan is better than God’s.  Why don’t you just let God be God and shut up?  It would save you a lot time and face.

Taking prayer another way, we could also say that it is simply pointless because if God already knows all, God knows what is going to happen without error.  Therefore, using prayer for change is pointless.  If God already knows what is going to happen to the child with cancer, how would praying change anything?  What will be, will be.  Of course, God would already know that you were going to pray, but then this cycles back to the previous point of you being so arrogant to believe that you can change God’s mind with your prayers.  What will be, will be, regardless of your prideful attempts to alter the outcome.

Of course, there are some prayers that are fine.  Those prayers that are thanking God for something or praising God are just fine.  It’s all you praying people that are asking God for something who need your heads checked.

This brings me to reparative therapy.  This is now in the news because Michele Bachmann’s husband’s clinic practices this therapy.  What is reparative therapy?  It is praying over a “homosexual” person to try and “cure” that person of that homosexuality.  The core belief behind this practice is that God made everyone, at base, a heterosexual, but that through perversion, some people have been infected with homosexual tendencies.  Thus, Bachmann and folks pray that God will change this person back to being a heterosexual.

This is one of the most disgusting practices I have ever read about.  First, we have the whole arrogance thing in that these praying people believe they have the inside track on changing God’s mind.  They believe that they are important enough (Christian enough?) for God to listen to them and then act according to THEIR will.  But second, they are performing one of the most (legal) degrading practices that can be performed on a person.  They are saying, in effect, that this homosexual person is a total perversion before God, so much so that they need to enlist God’s help to change the person back to the accepted heterosexual lifestyle.  And, if the prayer therapy doesn’t work, it means that not even God could change the pervert!  Holy crap!  That would make me so clinically depressed that who knows what I would do to myself.

When it comes to sexual identity, people have to be real careful when it comes to therapies.  Any therapy that actually tries to change one’s sexual identity needs to be just eliminated.  Reparative therapy needs to be burned at the stake.  It is itself a gross perversion.

Prayer is either an exercise in arrogance or else it is just pointless.  Reparative therapy is a prayer therapy that is delusional perversion which needs to stop immediately before it harms more people.  Those are my conclusions.

(NB: I no longer pray FOR anything anymore.)

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Did the police really need to bust me? (by anon)

So I understand that I deserved the punishment I got but I would just like to rant about the fact we are encouraged to call the police for a safe ride home if we are uncomfortable at the place we are at or we are too intoxicated to get home by ourselves.  But I don’t know anyone that would actually not call the police for a ride because they would be too afraid they would get some sort of ticket or write-up even though the police will theoretically bring you home no questions asked.  But the fact that you can be questioned by a police officer for just talking by the elevator and supposedly being too loud and then get breathalyzed in response and then given the option of getting a ticket or taking a class and community service because there was alcohol found in your system seems a little extreme when you weren’t hurting anyone or anything.  If I had called the police from a party and asked for a ride because I was too belligerently drunk to get home am I suppose to believe that there won’t be any consequences for me later?  I don’t really buy that.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Facebook status crazies (by anon)

Personally, I have fallen under the category of putting my favorite song lyrics down as my Facebook status, but there comes to a point when it goes too far.  Song lyrics talking about relationships can be cute, but seriously sometimes I feel like just saying “Gag me.”  And also, when people put random things as their status it just leaves me thinking “Whaaaaaat?”

“We working you mother fucker Gangster, gangster, gangster” was put as one of my friends statuses a while ago.  The song is Gangsta by Akon.  The thing I wanted to ask this person was “Why are you working me?”  And “Why am I a mother fucker?”  And “Why the heck are you posting this as your status?”  Maybe the lyrics have some emotional or symbolic meaning to the person, but seriously, do these statuses really belong on facebook?

Monday, July 4, 2011

Throwing away live fish in a trash can! (by anon)

I went to the park yesterday.  Nothing special.  Just went to the park.  I noticed that a Chinese father and his two young sons (I’d say ages 14 and 8) were taking pictures of the fish they had caught in the river that runs through the park.  And it was an impressive catch.  Maybe eight fish altogether and they were fairly big.  The smallest fish was probably 18-20 inches.  All the fish were lying out of the water as they were taking the pictures and I didn’t see much movement from them.  They finished taking the pictures, and then they packed up the five biggest fish in their coolers.  Then…my god I still can’t believe this…they calmly, causally walked over to a park trashcan and threw the remaining fish away.

It took me a minute to process that.  They just threw the fish away.  Mind you, the river was a couple of meters closer for them to walk to than the trash can.  So I reasoned that the fish were probably dead.  After all, they were doing all that posing for the pictures out of the water. 

Still sitting, I got a little perturbed because I thought that if they knew they couldn’t take all the fish home due to space in their coolers, why not throw the overflow fish back and save killing them for the sake of a few pictures?  In the very least, take the pictures quick and then throw them back.  At this point, I was thinking that that was pretty irresponsible.

Curiosity then got the better of me.  I wanted to see the fish for myself.  The Chinese family had just walked away, so I walked over to the trashcan and peered at the three fish amid the smelly trash and tons of flying bugs.  They looked pretty dead.  My friend says that they were probably carp.  Not the prettiest fish, but certainly not ugly.  THEN OMFG, one of those “dead” fish moved!!!!!!!!!!  One of those fish gasped for air.  Sirens in my head.  Seeing red.  Feeling panic.  Holy shit what should I do?  Should I run after that family and tell them to please get the fish out of the trashcan and throw them into the river?  Should I try to do that myself?  Should I just sit back down?

I couldn’t freaking believe it!  They threw away live fish?  Who fucking does that?  Do people have such low regard for life that they would rather throw a living animal away than let it live?  I’m clenching my teeth my so hard just writing this post because this so inflames me.  If you are going to catch fish and keep them to eat, fine.  I get that.  If you are going to catch fish and release them, fine.  I get that too.  If you are going to catch fish and just let them die for no damn reason, then go to hell.  There is no place for such obscene behavior.  And if this is some kind of commonplace practice in Wisconsin as my friend suggests, I feel like humankind is failing.

I did go back to sit down because I could not think of a way to get those fish out.  Laugh all you want, I didn’t want to use my bare hands.  I’ve been cut on fish before and that trash was gross.  I kept thinking, “Surely they are dead by now.  The father must have known something that I did not know about the inevitability of the fish’s deaths.”  But I couldn’t sit comfortably with those attempted-soothing thoughts.  So I ripped up some of the plastic landscaping covering that was peeping up in a nearby flowerbed (you know, the kind to prevent weeds) – I ripped up a bunch – and went back to that trash can to get those fish out.  If those fish were going to die, they were not going to die in there!  They were going to die in their river.  And damn it was not easy getting them out.  Slippery.  Heavy.  And far down in the trash by this point.  I got the first one out and almost made it to the river without dropping it, but I drop it two feet away.  I scooted it the rest of the way, it made a splash in the river (a three foot drop), and swam away.  I couldn’t believe it.  I thought I’d see it bob up on its side in a few moments.  Nope.  All good as far as I could tell.  The second fish swallowed a hook and there was a bit of tackle hanging out its mouth.  He didn’t look so good, and he did bob up when I threw him in even though he was still breathing.  But at least he will die in the river (or make some miracle recovery, how knows).  So far one for two.  The third fish did great as the first.  Two out of three!  Not bad, I thought.

The nerve that some people would leave a living animal to die when they could have easily allowed it to live.  I only hope that when an uber-race of aliens comes to take us as pets and eat us to survive that they have a more abundant dose of decent courtesy and respect.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Watch out! You may or may not be in a de-personalized internet zone (by anon)

After finding out about "personalized internet" and what it is all about, thanks to Wisconsin Public Radio 90.7, I was thinking about how cool this blog is, and how nice it is to have as a place on the web that is guaranteed to provide me and others with different news stories, opinions, conflicts, etc. that can come from lefties & righties, atheists & non-atheists, students and professors, and so on and so forth.

Personalized internet on the surface seems cool - more relevant answers come from Google searches, Amazon tells you what books you might like, Facebook gives you links to ads, pages, etc. that it thinks you will like, etc. All this and more, according to actions you have previously performed on the internet (meaning actions that are linked to you as an internet user). I don't know exactly how it works, but apparently websites are coded with these complex algorithms that determine what information gets presented to you (after a search, on your Facebook feed, on the front page of Yahoo! News, etc.) , according to different variables such as what computer you are on, the user you are logged in as, your location, your age, your internet options/preferences, the links/ads you've clicked on in the past, the searches you've performed in the past and what results you clicked on first, etc. In a lot of cases, personalization can really help people – it saves search time, gets you what you want, and shows you things you didn't even know you wanted to see.

But there is a problem with internet personalization, particularly when it comes to important things like political issues. For instance, one person who the internet has identified as a conservative will get different search results than someone who the internet has identified as a liberal. So conservatives will not be as exposed to the same articles, blogs, advertisements, etc. that liberals may be exposed to, and vice-versa, simply so more money can be made by Google or whatever company. Is there something wrong with this?

It seems that the internet may be keeping people in their bubbles by filtering information. You know, personalization might just enable people to stay in their corner of the world, and rarely let them be exposed to content that some coded algorithm has decided will not be of interest to them. This in itself might not be wrong, because the internet is business, and the users are consumers, so they get what they get. However, some people don't realize to what extent the internet is tracking them and their movements, and how well the internet hides things from people who believe they are seeing the full picture when they search Google or even scroll their Facebook feed. In other words, people miss out and don't get as much exposure to differing perspectives as they may think without even realizing it, so it is easier for differing viewpoints to be ignored and overlooked, even when a person might actually take interest in opposing viewpoints in certain situations. Thus, people unwittingly are being closed off to alternative standpoints.

So, now that I myself have a better idea of what is going on behind the web pages that seem to innocently provide me with news and search results, I am very appreciative of this blog, because every post is random and not custom fitted for me! I do enjoy seeing posts from people who don't have the same viewpoint that I do (agreeing with every post would get entirely too boring), and I think it is fun and beneficial, because it helps me consider my own ideas/perspective on all kinds of different topics, in extraordinary ways.

What I want to do now, is think about ways that this kind of internet can be expanded - meaning, the kind that is NOT personalized. Obviously there may be ways to avoid the consequences of personalization, but I am afraid it is not as easy as one may think. Luckily I am a college student who has access to school libraries and legitimate sources of information that I can access easily without having to get around the search engines’ algorithms (I think). Unfortunately, this is not the case for everyone, and when personalization goes unnoticed, no one thinks to make special efforts to avoid it.

As a final note, I can't help but think about Jean Paul Sartre, and his idea of "The Look", because it is almost as though the internet is giving us all "The Look"! Seeing what we do - then labeling us, and generalizing us, making us objects to fit into whatever "type" the internet thinks we are! Conservatives, liberals, soccer moms, college kids, smokers, sports enthusiasts, artists, etc... we're being objectified, and we're falling into the marketing scheme of the internet  - when at first we created the internet, the internet now seems to create us, and it locks us into habits of clicking on certain kinds of links and viewing certain kinds of things, gradually securing us into whatever category the internet places us into... mindlessly pushing for the continuance of and feeding the simple objectified versions of ourselves.