Sunday, April 27, 2008

How can I afford this?

These past months prices have been sky rocketing whether it is gas or even the tolls to get over the bridges. Staten Islander’s are finding it difficult to afford and are wondering what they can do to lower the cost, and if there even is anything that they could do. Although the gas prices will continue to stand there is something they can do to lower the cost of the toll every time they cross the bridge. It is called the Port Authority Carpool plan. This plan drops the price of the bridges to $2.00 E-ZPass tolls. This is almost at 66 to 75 percent discount. You can’t get better than that! This works for bridges and tunnels including the Goethals Bridge, Outerbridge Crossing, and the Bayonne Bridge. However, there is one catch- drivers who use this plan must have three people in the car or else it won’t work. Numbers show that this plan is used by only 1.6 percent of people during weekdays and 2.3 percent on weekends. Looking into the matter a little deeper it is easy to weight its benefits and its losses.

The obvious benefit of this plan is that it saves the driver money. If you are a frequent user of the bridge this money could definitely add up. For example, if you go over the Outerbridge five times and use the Port Authority Carpool plan it will cost you $10.00 as opposed to $40.00. That is and $30.00 difference. Also, by having people carpool it puts fewer cars on the bridge. This makes less traffic which can save drivers time when trying to get places.
What could be better than saving time and money? Why wouldn’t everyone want to sign up for this plan? Well, the plan does have some disadvantages as well. It will only work when the driver goes through a cash lane. The reason for this is because when you get up to the toll window the person collecting the tolls has to count the number of occupants in the car to make sure it is three or more. Some people find it a hassle to wait on these lines and feel it defeats the whole purpose of even having E-ZPass. Also it is hard for some people to travel with three or more. For example, when going to work in the morning most people travel by themselves, making the plan invalid. It can sometimes be a pain to travel with coworkers especially if they live in all different directions. One of the reasons this plan has not been used so highly yet is because most people are unaware of it. Those that do currently have it were probably informed by word of mouth because this plan has not been highly advertised. It is a tough sell. When people are in their own car they feel comfortable, for them to give up the freedom of controlling their destiny in their car is a hard thing to do.

I think this is a great idea. I feel this is very considerate to drivers knowing their expenses and trying to help. bit of patience this plan could definitely be successful. I know I personally have this plan and although it gets Even if you go over the bridge once a month and use the plan it is still money that is being saved. With a little annoying at times waiting in the cash lane, with a good song and good conversation you don’t even realize it took ten minutes or so! From experience, it definitely pays off at the end of the month when the E-ZPass bill arrives in the mail.

Innocent or guilty?

Most people are familiar with the Sean Bell case; however, for those of you who are not I will give you a little background. Sean Bell was an unarmed 25 year old African American who was shot and killed by the NYPD. He and his two friends were fired upon leaving his two friends wounded and Sean dead. The police, three of them being of African American dissent, that fired the 50 bullets were in “plainclothes,” meaning they were not in uniform and were in disguise. This usually occurs when someone is trying to conceal their identity and avoid detection. The three men were returning from Mr. Bell’s bachelor party that evening when the unarmed men were fired at in Jamaica, Queens.

The occurrence has been compared to that of Amadou Diallo who was also an unarmed African America man, shot at 41 times by police. This incident is disturbing to read about and seems like the police officers who took this young man, Sean Bell’s, life would have a lot to pay for. Unfortunately, when it was taken to the grand jury in Queens the three police officers indicted were acquitted on all accounts. They were found not guilty on charges varying from manslaughter to reckless endangerment. As if what happened wasn’t enough for people to state their opinions the public now has even more to say knowing that the men that took the life of Sean Bell and wounded two of his friends are now released and acquitted of charges. Looking at those understanding of the police officers say they were just doing their job. When a situation seems “fishy” or a police officer feels that something is not right and is about to happen they take action. Although in this case it wasn’t the proper action to be taken they still did what they so called “had to do.” Some believe you had to have been at the scene to judge the circumstances and since there were no witnesses it is hard the charge these officers with something. Being part of the NYPD is a stressful thing. While everyone depends on you to ensure their protection they also look to go against you when you are wrong. Even though some understand what happened most people strongly protest the situation and have a lot to say about it.

Many community members protest the amount of force that was used in the case of Sean Bell. Even Mayor Bloomberg quotes “It sounds to me like excessive force was used. The shooting was inexplicable and unacceptable.” People are not comfortable with the idea of the grand jury issuing the sentence of saying Mr. Bell was reckless and that’s why they pulled the trigger and not doing anything else about it. They also believe that black males will now start feeling like targets especially after Mr. Diallo and now Mr. Bell. In Mr. Diallo’s case the bullets that were fired were 41 and in Mr. Bell’s case it was 50. People now wonder, will the number of bullets continuously fired persist on going up? Many people just cannot get over the fact that these officers were acquitted from all charges. They feel like something should have been done and to sit back and not do anything is just unacceptable. Citizens are starting to feel like they can’t trust the police anymore not knowing what they will do in stressful situations. If one was to reach into their pocket in front of a cop should they feel like they will get shot at?

Losing a loved one is never easy, and when it happens answers always want to be heard and the person or people that took the life are expected to suffer. What happened was terrible and I do believe these officers should not walk away without any charges in their hand however, I do not believe they were totally wrong. These policemen had to feel threatened in some way for them to take out their weapon and fire it. Even though the men were unarmed it was hard for the officers to tell that. As a police officer there is one main motive in mind- to ensure the safety of the public. Thinking on impulse, they thought shooting this man was the best option because if they had not he could have perhaps killed the officers and went on harming other people in the neighborhood. Although the judgment of the police was not accurate I don’t think they did this with the motive of death in their mind.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Catholic schools are strict, but are they a little too strict?

As a former Catholic school student, I clearly remember the first day of class each year. Together as a grade we were all asked to assemble to the auditorium where the dean of that grade would give a speech and talk to us as a whole. Each year they would go over each and every rule and the list would be endless. Girls were not allowed to have highlighted hair, boys could not have shorter than a certain number buzz cut, only one hole was allowed in each ear, only diamond studs were allowed as opposed to hoops, etc. The list goes on and on, but is all of these rules really that necessary?

Some people feel every rule that is offered is definitely a necessity. Having so many rules keeps the students in order and on the right track. By not allowing girls to highlight their hair it avoids the issue of some people having blue, pink or green highlights, a common thing in our world today. Giving the same rules to every student this allows them to be similar in how they look leaving little room for students to make fun of other students. It isn’t uncommon for students to get teased for not wearing name brand clothes or having the newest sneaker out, etc. By controlling these things with uniforms and similar hairstyles it tends to avoid this situation. Not only does it avoid this situation but it teaches students that in life you have to follow rules whether you like them or not and if you obey those rules everything will be fine. If you choose to break the rules there will be consequences, so indirectly there is a lesson to be learned from these rules.

On the other end is everyone who believes that there are too many rules in Catholic schools. For some it is bad enough that they have to wear a uniform, so they express themselves through their hair, jewelry, nails, etc. Once this is taken away from them they feel helpless and no one is unique. Rather, everyone looks the same and the only thing that’s different is peoples’ personality. By having so many rules students tend to feel like they are in a “prison” making them not want to go to school. It gives them the feeling that school is almost like a job and it becomes something they dread doing everyday. By dreading going to school they are less likely to focus causing them to fall behind and not do well on their exams.

I believe having certain rules are good to an extent. Students need guidelines and they need guidance to keep them on the right track moving in the right direction. However, they do not need to have their “individualness” taken away from them. If students are all wearing the same outfits they want to express themselves in different ways. I do feel that students should be able to wear their hair however they want or where whatever jewelry they please. While guidelines are still good you cannot take the “child” out of the children. They still need to enjoy themselves and be able to express themselves how they please to find out who they really are.

Will the postcard-perfect backdrop soon be taken away?

With the thought of the celebrity life in Los Angeles one landmark that comes to everyone’s mind is the giant “King Kong” letters H-O-L-L-Y-W-O-O-D. For as long as I can remember I have seen this sign in countless amounts of movies and films. The sign was first constructed in 1923 to encourage real estate in the area. Ironically, eight-five years later people are afraid that the sign is currently threatened by a real estate deal. The land was put up for sale last month for the high cost of $22 million. It was put up by an investment group who owns 138 acres above and to the left of the 45 foot-high “H.” Filling you in on a little history of the sign, it was once owned by Howard Hughes. He bought it in 1940 with the intentions of building an estate for him and the love of his life Ginger Rogers. Unfortunately she was not too fond of the idea of living on an isolated hilltop and the two deserted the land. It was purchased by Fox River Financial Resources in 2002 for $1.7 million. It is quite clear that Hughes estate’s trustees were either not aware of the value of this land or too busy managing the billionaire’s enormous fortune to care.

The whole idea of selling this land brought much controversy to the public. People were very opinionated on this subject and expressed their great disappointment. One issue that the residents of Los Angeles were fearful of was that if the land was sold mansions would be built on the land. This would ruin the beautiful scenery and take away from the landmark. It would become too cluttered and the quiet, tranquil, peaceful setting it once gave off would not be there anymore. Roads would have to be built on this area of land for people to get to their homes, making it more attractable to homeowners. Also, the concern was that this land would no longer be available and easily reached by hikers, sightseers and those looking for some romantic time. If the area became too cluttered it would give this sign less of an impact on people and tourists would not want to come see it anymore. This brings less attraction to Hollywood effecting businesses, hotels, etc.

On the bright side, the landmark will always remain. No matter how much is added to the land people will always remember the amazing sign that once solely existed. It may even interest tourists to see how much this piece of land has changed over the years. It will also make those who may buy a house on the land, if they are built, very happy one day.

I feel the residents of this area should have expected the day to come when this land would be bought and houses or other things would have been added to it. We live in a world where everything has a price no matter how valuable and people are willing to pay crazy amounts of money for the things they want. Although this landmark may start to look different then what everyone is used to I feel the true meaning and feeling you get when you walk by the sign will always remain to those who have been there before.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

A day off from school; but for what reason?

Last week, April 4th, three Staten Island Catholic schools were affected by the decision of the Federation of Catholic Teachers to protest. They were protesting against unfair labor practices and were looking for an alternative medical plan in which their teachers would be able to meet the expenses of. The three schools included St. Charles School, St. Clare’s School and Our Lady Star of the Sea. This protest had more than 50 teachers picketing outside of each of these schools. The union had previously filed a notice of unfair labor practices with the New York State Employees Relation Board but nothing was ever done about it. While the picketers did say their goal was not to be disruptive but rather send a message that what the Archdiocese is doing was not fair, it caused a big commotion.

Due to this strike, students of each of the schools missed out on a whole day’s worth of work. Instead of learning and participating in academic activities they were left with no choice but to spend the rest of the day coloring, watching movies, etc. Technically that Friday was a wasted day of school with hardly any academic learning but mostly fun, pastime activities in replacement. Parents and school board members were asked to put their busy day aside for a couple of hours to help control the classrooms, making sure the students were supervised. This also puts a strain on parents who look forward to bringing their children to school so they have time to do everything they need to do on their own. This protest disrupted their schedule and instead caused several parents to help out in the school buildings, something they would not ordinarily expect. With more than 50 protesting teachers outside each of the three schools much attention was brought to each, however, it was not the kind of attention a principal would want brought upon them. Cars slowed down to read the signs causing traffic jams, honking, and something to talk about at dinner that night. Little kids are always following in the footsteps of their elders. Seeing this, it gives students the thought that if they don’t like something that is going on inside of school they can protest it by taking the day off and standing outside with signs. This is not setting a very good example for those students.

You may ask yourself, what exactly is the positive of this strike then? Well, the teachers that were protesting were able to get a point across. They were able to show the Archdiocese that they did not agree with what was going on and that they are working in unfair labor practices. By doing what they were doing, and halting a day of schoolwork, it was thought that this would give the Archdiocese of New York’s Association of Catholic Schools a chance to consider revising the contract seeing the consequences occurring due to this strike.

I do not believe any strike is technically “the right thing to do.” While it was something the teachers felt they had to do, it was completely not fair to the students. Students go to school and look forward to learning. They do not expect to get off of the school bus and see their teachers standing outside with signs and the parents of classmates in front of the classroom trying to keep everything under control. I feel that when you take the position of a teacher you become a role model for students. Your main interest is to help the students in your classroom and share the knowledge you have gained throughout the years. I felt this strike showed that the teachers picketing cared more about themselves then they did the benefit of the students. I felt a strike like this let the students down and makes me wonder, would the teachers I currently have abandon me, my fellow classmates and our education to get a higher salary or better medical benefits?

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Are video games really just for children and teens?

With this item constantly flying off the shelves Nintendo Wii is in high demand. It was at the top of most peoples’ Christmas list and continues to sell worldwide. However, what makes the Wii so unique and incredibly popular? Aside from its straightforward graphics and uncomplicated controllers, it is the first system to appeal to senior citizens. Recently seven systems have been installed with one in each of the Friendship Clubs on Staten Island. A $10,000 grant allowed Councilmen James Oddo and Vincent Ignizio to stand behind this project.

Besides bringing hours of entertainment does this system also benefit these seniors in other ways? The answer to this question is, of course. Nintendo Wii gives these seniors an opportunity to get up and move in a stress free environment with fun and entertainment at its roots. The Wii compels its players to arouse movements in each of the games. Games include bowling, tennis, boxing, swimming, etc. It provides its players with the physical activity one would get from playing a sport but eliminates the tension put on joints and muscles. This game system is also another way for seniors to stay occupied and keep them busy. It keeps them going throughout the day and has people lining up, eager to play, in each of these Friendship Clubs. One particular fan of the system is 76-year-old Nancy Beshara. She admits to having the time of her life when playing Wii at the Mount Loretto Friendship Club where she is currently enrolled as a member.

There really isn’t anything negative that comes out of having these systems in each of these clubs. While some players may be better then others each will have enough time to practice and improve their “Wii skills.” Seniors get caught up in the games they are playing and lose track of time. They will all refer to the quote “time flies when your having fun,” especially when your are playing Nintendo Wii.

I think the whole idea of installing these game systems is terrific. It gives these seniors something fun to do with the hours of the day and at the same time works as an exercise, forcing them to move, stimulating the joints and muscles. It is a good way for them to stay in shape and not make it feel like it’s a chore, such as lifting weights, walking around outside, etc. Not only does the Wii bring entertainment to the player but to all those watching as well. It is just as entertaining for seniors to watch their peers play as it is to play themselves. It brings smiles to each of their faces and allows for the opportunity to meet new people and formulate new bonds. I feel this game goes beyond the idea of something fun to play with but rather gives these seniors a chance to forget about their age and feel like a child again. While it is usually unheard of for adults, especially senior citizens, to play video games and like it, Wii gives them a chance to be able to play and be good at the game they are playing. Children should be wise when choosing their competitors because it seems like age is not a factor to succeed at playing Nintendo Wii.

Monday, March 31, 2008

When exactly is taking it “too far”?

Recently interviewed, Jose Canseco spoke about his book Vindicator. Jose Canseco is a former baseball player. He was an outfielder and designated hitter. The main purpose of his book is to attack major league baseball. As we can tell from the definition of the title, his purpose is to justify specific doubts people have about issues with the sport. At one point, Vindicator focuses on New York Yankee’s superstar Alex Rodriguez. This incredible third baseman just signed a ten year contract and continues to strive in his athletic ability; however, author Jose Canseco has plenty to say. In this new book A. Rod is accused of taking steroids. While Jose admits that he never actually injected the prominent athlete, he does quote him saying “Where would one go if one were to buy steroids”? He also accuses Mr. Rodriguez of hitting on his wife. When the press questioned him about this situation he replied “I have absolutely no comment,” giving Mr. Canseco even more of a reason to believe his intuition.

After reading about the main focus of this new book I had mixed emotions. Many people felt Jose Canseco had crossed the line. Could he be jealous of this incredible athlete and is looking to seek revenge? Is he looking for a way to make money and feels this storyline would be a “hot topic” to sell? While the reasons behind him doing this are unclear it is easy to see the negative effects of his book. Jose is jeopardizing the reputation of young athlete Alex Rodriguez. For some people when they read information they take it as true before even finding out the rest of the facts. With this book being published people may not take A. Rod as serious, believing he is on steroids. Teaming up with the media, Jose Canseco is jumping to conclusions based on what he hears. Mr. Rodriguez’s decision of not commenting when asked about Canseco’s wife could have to do with the fact that he does not want something that never happened to be blown up into a big deal. With the publishing of Vindicator this issue will be open for the entire world to voice their opinion on.

With little positive affects of this book, there is, however, some that can be touched on. This book enlightens readers on the problems found in major league baseball. While on the outside the sport may seem like a “perfect little world,” there is much more that goes on behind the scenes. Baseball players are constantly being questioned about the use of steroids and it seems like their exceptional ability becomes unheard of and their success becomes due to the injecting of steroids. Vindicator shows that even people in the major leagues are ordinary people just like us. It shows a feud between two competitors and problems such as “fighting” over a girl which most of us can relate to.

I was in awe when I read the summary of this book. I could not believe someone would go as far as commenting on the personal life of another to base a book around. The intention of this book was not to praise or honor the sport but rather attack it as well as the people who participate in it. I don’t think Jose Canseco took into consideration the people he was hurting when writing this book but thought more about the profit he would make when selling it. I also feel that people will look at him differently knowing that he decided to write about a situation involving his marriage rather then trying to keep his “personal” life separate from his “celebrity” life.

Divorce; Now Becoming a Trend?

In this day and age, divorce is becoming more common then ever. As quickly as people are getting married they are getting divorced several years later. Looking back on the history of divorce, it dates back to the years of Mesopotamia. Back then the ancient Athenians allowed divorce but the person who wanted the divorce had to present papers to a magistrate. From there the magistrate would determine whether or not the reasons were sufficient enough. Based on the decision a divorce was either granted or the subject was dropped. Today the divorce rate is 17.7 for every 1,000 married women. Consequently, the marriage rate is on a steady decline. There has been a 50% drop in marriages since 1970. But what is the reason for all of these divorces and the cutting down of marriage?

One significant factor deals with the fact that men and women need each other less for economic survival. Through the years women have become independent, moving into high ranking positions and being able to support themselves on their own. Another factor of why marriages are declining and divorces are occurring is because the advances made with birth control allow men and women to separate sexual life from a life with children. Other factors that contribute to the outcome of divorce are money, career issues, and lack of communication or emotional maturity. Bills become overwhelming; fights begin to last for days and other issues such as jealousy, animosity, etc. begin to show. Other grounds for divorce include unfaithfulness, abuse or addiction. For some, temptation of the opposite sex is too much to handle and their emotions become hard to control causing them to cheat on their spouse. With all life’s hardships it is unfortunate that some people find the need to turn to drugs or alcohol and before they know it are quickly addicted. Their addiction could lead to violence and injury to their spouse.

Although no one wants to experience divorce or watch someone go through the painful process sometimes it is the best option. Marriage is not always the answer and sometimes the people we think we could spend the rest of our lives with may not be that person at all. Sometimes people are forced into a marriage whether it has to do with pregnancy, the feeling of not being able to find anyone else, etc.

As the daughter of two divorced parents, I had to witness the whole process. The reasons my parents got divorced, the talk I had to have with them before they went their separate ways and the period after my family broke apart was more than I could handle at the time. From experience I could say that this decision was one of the better decisions they could have made. I see the way my family is today and realize how much better off we are with things as they are. Not only are my parents much happier but I have learned a lot through the whole process. I learned how to become an independent woman and separate my problems at home with the rest of the activities I had to fulfill throughout my day. I can now attest that while things may seem like the worst decision at the time and when things seem like they could never get worse, one day you realize why everything happens the way it does.

Monday, March 24, 2008

What exactly is Creative Nonfiction?

For those familiar with literature, it is easy to identify two main genres, fiction and nonfiction. Fiction comprises works of imaginative narration while nonfiction encompasses the narrative style dealing with opinions or speculation of facts and reality. However, digging into the more specific genres, creative nonfiction is becoming more and more popular over time.

Also known as “literary journalism” or “new journalism,” the term creative nonfiction became “official” in 1983. While the name did not become “firm” until 1983 writers of the 1960’s and 70’s started to write in this context. They began to write true stories more stylistically as opposed to simply stating facts and reporting information. Throughout the years, there has been groundbreaking works of creative nonfiction including Truman Capote’s, In Cold Blood.

While different people have different ways and use different words to describe creative nonfiction it is easy to see they all express a similar definition. It is a genre of writing that uses literary approaches and techniques to express factually accurate narratives. Creative nonfiction is formed in a way which reads like fiction but communicates information. It uses the devices of fiction while preserving loyalty to the truth. Creative nonfiction is a technique used to get the reader interested and understanding the information provided by having “the author in the work.” It gives a personal incorporation of an account as well as reporting on the outside world. It is a way for the author to “liven up” information and ideas that are already present by making them more interesting.

After understanding what the genre consists of, it is easy to relate it to books previously read. In Herbert Asbury’s All Around the Town he demonstrates the style of creative nonfiction. Specifically, in “A Lady of Fashion” the reader becomes aware of the style of dress in the early 1900’s. The information is given in a vivid and dramatic way keeping the readers interested but at the same time expressing factual information. The same goes for John McPhee’s The Curve of Binding Energy. He writes with fictional techniques but provides nonfictional information such as Nagasaki and Hiroshima, and the background of uranium-235 and plutonium-239.

Other styles of writing such as creative writing and journalism may seem to be almost the same as creative nonfiction; however, there is a fine line that separates these genres. Creative writing gives the writer the ability to write freely, creating imaginative drama. Journalism, on the other hand, involves reporting and writing news by giving information straightforwardly and to the point. Creative nonfiction can be seen as a mixture of both these types of genres. It is the performance of writing nonfiction in an imaginative and striking approach. Creative nonfiction proposes flexibility and liberty while sticking to the guidelines of reporting, escaping the customary boundaries of narrative overall.

This underlying genre can also be found in the form of personal essays, memoirs, travel writing, food writing, biography, literary journalism, etc. Through these works it is easy to involve not only the reader but the writer as well. In the course of creative nonfiction writing, facts come alive through narration and setting. Well developed scenes are presented to give an interesting twist to actuality. Creative nonfiction differs from other genres in that the “I” is present either explicitly or implicitly. Writers of creative nonfiction do not make things up but rather personalize the information. Creative nonfiction “shows rather than tells.”

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Glitzy Guns?

Recently aroused again is the issue of “painting” guns. It has been on the news and in the papers as to whether or not gun paint should legally be sold in stores. The colors range from “barney” purple to lime green to “sunshine” yellow, etc. Mayor Bloomberg once outlawed this issue. Ironically, he now uses his name to promote the product. A sketch of Mayor Bloomberg’s face can be found on the display guns for this product. It was admitted that this is mainly for publicity. The underlying question, however, is whether or not legalizing gun paint is a good idea.

For most, they are absolutely against the idea. Safety is a big issue especially when it comes to guns. With the pull of a trigger someone’s life can easily be taken from them. By having these flamboyant colors real guns start to resemble toy guns that children play with when they play “cops and robbers.” This can have a big effect on police officers. If they are in a situation and someone pulls out a lime green gun they may hesitate, deciding if the gun is real or not. This slight hesitation could be the difference between life and death. On the opposite end, knowing how much these painted guns look like toy guns, someone looking to rob a store may walk in with a plastic and get everything they want. Little would the owner know that the gun was fake and they could have saved their store without getting hurt. Painted guns take away the seriousness of the weapon. If a police officer was walking around with a purple gun it would be something to look and laugh about rather than to be scared and realize the power that police officer has. Fun, bright colors are the colors of toys, clothes, shoes, etc., not the color of a weapon.

Others do not take this issue as heavily. They feel it is another way to make money and just another product sold. It is a nice touch for those who perhaps enjoy collecting stamps or coins, playing sports, etc. Referring back to the safety issue, many people feel that no matter what shape, size and especially color of a gun, a police officer would react as if it was truly loaded and ready to fire. They feel there should be no hesitation because after all a gun is a gun no matter how it looks.

As for me, I feel there should be limits to this gun paint. I do not think it should be legal to sell them in stores for anyone to purchase. I feel that painting guns various colors takes away from the seriousness of the weapon. It makes it seem like it is something that is fun to do rather than something dangerous to be around. I also think that if children see guns painted in fun colors they will want to have one of their own. To compromise on this situation I feel that perhaps a “gun club” could have a special day or place to paint the guns they have, rather than let people paint their own, even if the gun is licensed. Therefore, the guns never leave the place and it is “O.K.” for there to be yellow, purple, green guns to shoot around with.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Are people truly aware of the issue of nuclear weapons?

After recently reading John McPhee’s The Curve of Binding Energy, my eyes were opened to an issue I, like many others, seem to overlook. It introduced readers to the reality of nuclear weapons and nuclear materials. Ted Taylor, the main character, spoke about his concern for the capability of anyone to get hold of nuclear materials and construct a homemade bomb. This message left me thinking even after I finished reading the book. Is what Taylor was saying really true? Are people unaware of what is out there in a world some conceive to be as “perfect”?

Most people are unaware of the seriousness of the nuclear world. They do not realize what goes on and how easy nuclear material could be obtained. To most, this is not a topic of interest. I know for me learning about nuclear bombs in school was something I didn’t care to pay too much attention to. People are unaware of the issue of safeguards and how important they truly are. Safeguards are a “series of frames around the nuclear industry.” They are a way to look after and protect the material that could eventually be turned into a bomb, whether it means alarms, vaults, fences, guards, etc. This alone shows that there must be a strict watch on nuclear materials. Sometimes it is hard to grasp the concept that although nuclear bombs are not blowing up under our feet they still exist and are affecting other parts of the world. In correlation to the war in Iraq, while everyone “knows” what is going on do they really “know” what is going on?

For those that are aware and familiar with the issue, it is hard to know if they really care enough to do something about helping protect the nuclear field. They read about what goes on and how important the issue is, but after reading this information do they close the book or want to contribute something to help? McPhee really hits the point of warning the general public of what used to be such a “secretive” topic. Through his book we see how the information is out there and the leniency on expressing details about the world of nuclear weapons. We are also put in a position to worry that people reading this book will use it to their advantage to help in the construction of a bomb.

I believe that people aren’t fully as aware of the issue of nuclear weapons as they should be. I feel people know about the issue and when they hear the word “nuclear” can relate it to previous knowledge they hold on the issue but do not know the danger of what could happen if people get hold of nuclear materials. I feel that as long as people don’t personally experience nuclear bombs they tend to disregard the issue. “If it doesn’t happen to me, it doesn’t exist,” a common motive people live by. This doesn’t wipe away the reality of how dangerous nuclear weapons are and I feel there should be a greater emphasis on the topic. It is not something to sit back on and watch happen before our eyes, regretting the lackadaisical approach to try and secure these nuclear materials.

Can a one line story have a greater impact than one might assume?

Recently I have gained an angel in heaven, but a hole in my heart that seems like it will never heal.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

On Your Mark, Get Set, No?!

A couple of years ago there was a heated controversy over whether or not a NASCAR track should be built on Staten Island. It would be placed on an old oil field that has been left unused for ages. The International Speedway Corporation is the company arranging to build the NASCAR track. Many Staten Islanders see this idea as being too farfetched. The thought alone of having a racetrack on Staten Island is absurd. There will be many obstacles faced in building this track because of the political uproar it has created. Many Staten Islanders oppose the track but there are several who are completely for it. Each side has their own opinions for thinking the way they do.

Stating the views of those who are against the racetrack is the point that it will cause much more congestion on the island. As if traffic isn’t bad enough a racetrack would flood the streets with much more cars. It is imagined that NASCAR fans would gather onto the island and create havoc. Not only is traffic a major issue but the noise that the racetrack would bring has to be taken into consideration as well. Due to the fact that Staten Island is quite small, the noise of the track could be heard from all parts of the island. This would especially bother those who live near the presumed location of the track. With traffic and noise becoming a part of the Staten Island “lifestyle,” people may be pushed away from the island or for that matter want to move off of the island. This is not a good turn for the populated island.

Others are overjoyed with the thought of a NASCAR track being built on Staten Island. Many people are fans of this sport and the thought of having a racetrack in their “backyard” is unimaginable; to some it is a dream come true. Having a racetrack on Staten Island provides for new and exciting weekend fun. It gives a new twist to the island and provides young adults with the opportunity to do something proactive with their free time. With a huge inflow of visitors of the track a great profit will be made, contributing to the economy of the island.

Like every other controversy, there are two differing sides on this decision. Both hold valid view points and stand firm to their decision. While a racetrack would be a new attraction for Staten Islanders, I think it would cause much more confusion to the island. It remains to be seen if the NASCAR track will become a reality for Staten Islanders. The International Speedway Corporation has revealed that they will continue with the fight to build this track. Only time will determine the fate of this NASCAR track and will continue the fight until the ISC decides to give up.

Can Uncalled For Remarks Have Serious Consequences?

As if things aren’t “slippery” enough between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, one of Obama’s advisors, Samantha Power, added more heat to the fire. She was heard passing a comment about Senator Clinton on Monday, March 3rd referring to her as a “monster.” Ms. Power not only extended her genuine apologies for her inexcusable remark to Senator Clinton, Senator Obama, and the amazing Obama staff she had worked with for almost 14 months, but also wrote an apology letter to Hillary Clinton. Her comments left Obama’s team struggling to manage the damage done and regain its balance especially after Tuesday’s losses in the Rhode Island, Texas and Ohio primaries. After the incident, Samantha Power described Clinton as an “incredibly warm, funny role model for women.” She admitted that what she said was in a surge of frustration and that if Obama does not get the nomination she will be supporting Senator Clinton with the same eagerness. While Ms. Power did apologize for her “uncalled for” remark, is that enough to erase the consequences it caused?

Speaking too soon, Samantha Power made things harder for Obama. Her “monster” comment, directed towards Hillary Clinton, had many negative effects. Obama now has to try and fix his “Mr. Clean” image. This incident may lead Obama on the road of a bad reputation. Also, people may have changed their minds about Barack Obama. Those who once thought of him as a sincere, credible man may not view him as the same person anymore. This comment passed by Ms. Power has people wandering whether or not Obama and his team say one thing in public and another in private. Not only was this “episode” immature on Ms. Power’s part but led to her resigning and giving up her position on Obama’s staff. The biggest effect of this action is the heat it added between the two candidates. Hillary Clinton is now very skeptical about what Obama and his advisors say behind closed doors.

While there is really no bright side to this situation, Samantha Power was just expressing her opinion on the opposing candidate. It is unfortunate that she was unaware that she was still on record when she passed this comment but that is why certain things are better left unsaid. As a positive for Senator Clinton, this may give her some extra votes for those who are disappointed in Obama’s team and now want to vote against him. Hillary Clinton praised Obama in accepting Power’s decision to resign but like I said before she is still skeptical about the things him and his team say.

I do agree that Samantha Power’s remark was child-like and inappropriate. I believe she spoke too soon and was unaware of the fact that she was still on record. I do not think this remark will be erased very quickly but eventually it will be in the past and forgotten about. I think Obama will face some sort of consequence for this, whether it’s losing a few votes, losing part of his credibility, etc. During campaigning, every little thing counts. The press is all over the place looking for a good story to write about; not only the candidate but the entire team as well needs to watch what they say and do. While others learned from Ms. Power’s mistake, it cannot be taken back. Both candidates have to move on with their campaign and continue on their struggle to become the next President of the United States!

Sunday, March 2, 2008

18 to Get In, 21 to Drink

After a week of stressful days at work and long hours at school everyone looks to get out and have fun on the weekend. The weekend is a time to let loose and ease the mind from any troubles or burdens throughout the week. For most young adults a night of fun involves going out with your friends, dancing the night away and just having a good time. What better place to do this then a bar or a club? However, in every bar and club there is usually some form of alcohol. So what should the age be to get into these places? Should it be strictly 21, or should 18 year olds be able to get in but not be allowed to drink?

People who oppose letting 18 year olds into places where alcohol is present have strong views as to why. For one, it is practically promoting underage drinking. Having those around alcohol who are under the legal age to drink is a strong temptation for them to get a drink anyway that they can. Even though places say it is 21 to drink once you get inside sometimes that is not the case. Bartenders tend to give drinks to anyone who is at the bar because after all that’s more tips for them at the end of the night. With this occurring underage drinkers are likely to get drunk. If for any reason a fight breaks out, the police show up and an underage drinker was the one involved, the bar or club could face serious consequences and possibly get shut down. This makes it not worth it for owners to let 18 year olds into their bar or club.

On the differing side are those owners who promote 18 year olds to come to their bar or club even though they cannot drink once inside. For owners, this is a huge sum of money they collect by allowing this age group to enter. Once the age of 18 is hit, people look to go out and get away from going to the movies, bowling, etc. Allowing 18 year olds to enter gives them a place to go and keeps them from wandering the streets. While you rarely here of a place for those old enough to go out but still too young to drink to go where no alcohol is present, bars and clubs are the only option granted alcohol is available. By allowing 18 year olds to be part of the club scene it gives them the chance to mingle with new people and perhaps meet a lifelong friend.

In my opinion I believe 18 year olds should be allowed to enter a bar or club even though they are unable to drink once they are inside. As long as they obey the rules of the bar or club I don’t see a reason why they shouldn’t be allowed to enter. As one gets older they begin to develop friendships with people of all ages. If an 18 year old hangs out with people a few years older then them, I don’t see why they should have to stay home while the rest of their friends go out because they are only 18. Eighteen is a tough age. It is a time when people are not children anymore but are not quite adults. With this in mind I feel 18 year olds should be given the upper hand and be allowed to enter a bar or a club with an 18 id.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Help! Help! A Fire Call a...Woman?

Throughout history, men were always perceived as the dominant sex. However, many feminists have fought against the social structures that have allowed men to be dominant over women. In today’s society, we are aware of the progress that women have made especially in the “working world.” Years ago, traditionally, women would stay home and take care of the children, cook dinner and clean. Now women have climbed so far up in their careers that we currently see Hillary Clinton running in the 2008 election for president of the United States. However, one field that people have trouble accepting women in is the Fire Department. Should women be able to accompany men in fighting fires? In the past this would not even be a debatable topic nor would women even be considered for this position. The issue has now become very real for women and people have their strong opinions on the subject.

For most, the idea of women and the Fire Department together is not a good mix. An obvious reason is that women are usually smaller and more petite then men. Not saying that women cannot be strong, but it is easier for someone with a bigger body structure to carry out another person from a burning building. For example, if a woman gets up to the 11th floor of a burning building and finds a 6 ft. and 350 lbs person in the middle of the room, they may not be able to save that person if they cannot lift them up and carry them out. With women in the Fire Department, sexual harassment issues arise more often. Also this is an easy way for a woman to get a “name.” The media is cruel and has no shame in saying that women who work in the fire department, around a group of men, must be having relations with at least one of them. Finally, with men used to being the overriding sex it is sometimes hard for them to take orders from women, the same way women may sometimes find it hard to take orders from men. With both sexes clashing it makes it hard to get the job that needs to be done accomplished.

Debating the issue, people defend women quite strongly when it comes to them becoming a member of the fire department. “Knowledge is power.” If a woman possesses unimaginable amounts of knowledge about the career she can definitely contribute in some way, shape or form. Although she may not have as much strength as the men do they are always there to give her a hand, the same way they help each other every now and then. For some men it is comfortable knowing that society today will accept women in all fields. They enjoy the idea of being able to interact and communicate with women at work.

Stepping back and looking at both opinions on the issue I strongly feel that a person’s sex should not even be considered when looking for this job. There are tests you have to take, both physical and mental, to join the Fire Department. If a woman is able to complete the task successfully why would she not be capable for the job? While there may be men who are stronger then women, it is no excuse to not hire a woman. Today there is no superior sex and opportunities are more or less equal. The bottom-line is that if a person is good at what they do, and can successfully and accurately fulfill their career why does their sex even matter?

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Is London taking a turn for the better or the worse?

Lighting up a Parliament, Marlboro, etc., watching the tip of the cigarette turn red as tobacco is inhaled and exhaling a mouthful of smoke is like heaven to some. To others, who do not smoke, it is a disgusting habit they are forced to be around when going out to a bar, pub, club and so on. This has become a major issue in London. Smoking in bars and pubs is now a thing of the past for Englanders. It is banned in all pubs and clubs, both private and public, to light up a cigarette while enjoying a drink at the bar. It may take a lot of getting used to but the real question is how do people feel about this proposed law?

Despite the fact that many people are irritated about the banning of cigarettes in pubs, it could have a positive effect. Many smokers who are trying to quit have their biggest downfall when they go out to pubs and clubs. Being around others who smoke only makes a smoker want to reach into his/her pocket and light up one of their own cigarettes. With cigarettes being banned from these places the temptation is by far lessened. This may be the difference between continuing to smoke and being able to quit; the difference between saving a life and killing it. Another positive effect of outlawing cigarettes in pubs and clubs is it rids secondhand smoke. Statistics show that secondhand smoke causes approximately 3,400 lung cancer deaths and 46,000 heart disease deaths in adult nonsmokers in the United States each year. While cigarettes are still permitted in other bars and clubs around the world, it is a start to reducing these numbers by prohibiting them form the bars and pubs in England.

On the other side of the spectrum, are those who feel this is absolutely absurd. After a long stressful week of work, and other daily routines, people look forward to enjoying a night out, being able smoke and drink freely. With this law in affect it makes it hard for some people to have a good time without getting frustrated. This law can also affect the prosperity of businesses, especially those who heavily rely on smokers for their income.

After reviewing both sides, I believe this is an excellent law. As a nonsmoker, I know how frustrated I get when I go out at night and have to breathe in other peoples’ smoke. I made the wise decision not to smoke to avoid lung cancer and other such diseases; it is not fair to be in a room with a cloud full of smoke and nothing else to do but breathe it in. I also feel this will help those who are looking to stop smoking quit once and for all. When temptation is eliminated it makes it a lot easier; banning cigarettes from pubs and clubs is an excellent start. Also, I think the amount of nonsmokers that will now come to these pubs and clubs will make up for the business lost by those smokers too frustrated by the law. Only time can tell if other countries will accept this policy and reinforce it throughout the world!

Is indoor tanning all it’s cracked up to be?

The whole idea of waiting for the summer to lay in the backyard by the pool, sip a nice cold glass of lemonade and take the sun is too long for some. With most wanting a “Hollywood tan” all year round, tanning is the best option. Why not? It’s fast, easy, reasonably priced and achieves desired results. With its positives and negatives I think it is safe to say that the negative results easily outweigh all of the positives.

Starting with the benefits of tanning, it does not take more than approximately fifteen minutes to come out of a tanning bed with color to your face and a darker skin tone. Tanning is something that most people can conveniently fit into their schedule. Tanning salons are usually open late into the night, making them even more accessible. Also, the process is not tedious at all. You step into the room, put on some lotion and either lay in a bed or stand in a bunch of UV lights. Another appealing characteristic is the considerably reasonable price. With specials packages and deals all year round there is always a crowd of customers looking to buy a membership. Lastly, depending on the color tan you are striving for, indoor tanning can most likely get you to that desired skin color.

Shifting over to the negative side of tanning the consequences are pretty dangerous. Indoor tanning can lead to skin cancer, causing a frightening “spike” in the rates. While skin cancer used to be found mainly in older people it is becoming more and more common in adolescents. Just like smoking tanning may also have a similar “addictiveness” to it. Once people start going tanning they want to keep up with their tan and not let it fade away. Therefore, they continue to go weekly damaging their skin more and more. Another negative affect is it becomes a fake image. People become overly obsessed with maintaining a tan that they forget about their own self image and move into a world of fake tans and impressing others. Tanning also has a negative effect for tanning salons. Lawsuits are becoming more and more frequent causing salons to pay large sums of money.

Although it is hard for teenagers to overlook Jessica Simpson’s beautifully bronzed skin and Paris Hilton’s rich color, they have to be aware of the dangers that come along with it. It has been said by doctors that each time a skin color changes, whether it’s a tanner shade or a reddened face, there is UV damage. Even though it is easier said than done, I feel teenagers should be satisfied the way they are and do not need to damage their skin to fit in with the movie stars, singers, and others around them who abuse the tanning privilege. I believe we should be ourselves and have the patience to wait for summer to enjoy the natural sunlight to a safe extent.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

“Roses are red, violets are blue; some believe in love at first sight, do you?”

Love at first sight is an emotional condition in which someone feels a romantic attraction to a stranger the first time they encounter each other. This notion can be recognized by the other person or they may have no idea of the other’s presence. For example, if it is a crowded place one may immediately fall in love with another at the sight of appearance however, that other person has no idea the other is even in the room. Two people may experience this phenomenon at the same time by simply just making eye contact. This occurrence is mostly seen in movies and on television but the real question is “Can this truly happen in real life?”

Those who are optimistic believe that you could definitely fall in love with someone at first sight. To some, the moment you set your eyes on someone you immediately know if he/she is the one for you. While it is a quick connection, a fast glance at someone can leave you breathless with butterflies in your stomach. Another valid point in defending love at first sight is if everyone has a soul mate, then why should that soul mate not be recognized the moment you lay eyes on them. How can it not be love at first sight when your stomach begins to turn, your palms start to get sweaty, and your brain goes completely out of whack because you are so nervous?

In response to these convincing arguments, how can you really love someone without knowing their inner person? Is love based on looks alone with little regard to a person’s personality? While one may be overly attractive on the outside, their personality may not be as attractive on the inside. You cannot truly understand someone and what they are all about without speaking a word to them. Following the idea of love at first sight is like saying that physical attraction is primary and getting to know a person after that is secondary.

I do not believe in love at first sight. I think people become attracted to one another based on their looks but cannot truly be in love on a first encounter. It takes more than a conversation to know how well you get along with one another. The state of love is deep and profound. It is a feeling you begin to develop over time based on the chemistry of two people, the extent of enjoyment they bring one another, and the feelings they continue to develop for one another. While I do believe in attraction at first sight I do not believe two people can genuinely fall in love with one another at first encounter.

Should students get paid to do well on tests?

Rewards may consist of sums of money, valuable objects and other types of items, in return for accomplishment, service, hard work, etc. Rewards are given when people find something that is lost, perhaps a dearly loved pet. They are given when people find a criminal or murderer or when someone does an appreciated act for someone else. However, should money be given to students who do well on their exams throughout the school year? People have different opinions on the answer to this question and make valid points for their taken side.

Defending this newly aroused idea, paying students who do well on their exams provides a sense of motivation. It becomes an incentive for students to want to score high on their exams, causing them to study more than usual. It also makes boring subjects suddenly seem interesting. By giving out money, it serves as a reward for those students who diligently work all year round. This gives them the satisfaction to know that their hard work is paying off. Also, by paying students who do well, they become aware of the principle of managing money. To start saving earned money at such a young age could only benefit these children for the future. Lastly, the number of enrolled students in schools will most likely increase. Plenty of students drop out of school to work more hours and earn more money. Paying students to do well on tests “kills two birds with one stone.” The students are productively learning and, at the same time, making a few extra dollars for personal use.

On the contrary are those who do not agree with the idea of paying students to do well on tests. Some feel that school is a privilege. Although in this day and age school is almost a necessity, it is a way to improve the future of students; eventually, having to provide for themselves and their family. Students should not have to be motivated to do well. They should want to succeed and should not need money as an incentive. Also, school is a kind of “sacrifice” to be successful in life. With the idea of being successful in mind, students should want to do well and learn. By getting paid school is then considered a job, taking some of the concentration off of learning. After all, plenty of people do not enjoy going to work everyday so why make school a “workplace” for students to be miserable? Once you are getting paid for engaging in some sort of work it isn’t necessarily fun and interesting anymore. One final point as to why paying students may not be such a great idea is because some students are exceptionally well test takers. Is it really fair for students who do not do well all year round to get paid for scoring high because they are good at taking tests?

Personally, I do not believe that students should get paid for doing well on tests. I believe students should have a love for learning and should be able to realize the “rewards” later on in life from the career they decide to pursue. By paying students it turns “doing well” into a job rather than an aspiration to succeed. Students need to realize the greater opportunities they are providing for themselves by going to school and willingly learning what is being taught to them. To me, this sounds almost like a bribe to do well and I do not feel it is appropriate. Those who want to be successful in life will work hard and strive to do all they could do, money or no money.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

“To Join or Not to Join?” That Is the Question.

Sororities. Immediately people choose a side- either completely for or completely against them. By definition, a sorority is a social organization of women students at a college or university, usually designated by Greek letters; however, it is so much more than that.

As a newly educated member of Greek life, I could not be happier with my decision to join a sorority. Being involved for only a few short months, I have already acquired a number of friendships, memories, experiences and plenty more. The bonds between “sisters” that formulate and grow over the years are absolutely remarkable. To know that you always have a shoulder to lean on or someone to run to in times of trouble makes it easier to let out your emotions. The group effort of raising money for charity, donating clothes, food and other items and visiting nursing homes, etc. gives you a warm feeling inside. Nights out with the girls gives you a chance to escape the hectic and stressful life of school, work and other activities pursued throughout the day. While many people automatically connect sororities to parties all the time and wild nights, there truly is more to being involved. It is apparent that when a daughter comes home to tell her parents she wants to be in a sorority the typical reaction is either “Why?” or “Absolutely not.” People will still have their strong opinions about the whole idea of a sorority but keep in mind there is a lot more than the image that is given off in movies or on T.V.

Two Sides to Every Story

Life is based around controversy; constant decisions causing one to take a side, choose between two or more things, or state an opinion on a topic. A controversy is a disagreement between sides holding differing views. Some solutions are easier then others. They can quickly be decided based on common knowledge. For example, you walk into the store to buy a magazine but you forget your money in the car. Do you go back to the car to get your money or do you steal the magazine? Common sense says to go get your money out of the car and buy the magazine. But other controversies are not so simple. A girl goes to the doctor after being raped only to find out that she is pregnant. She cannot afford to keep the baby and does not want to be reminded of the terrible incident that occurred. Does she have the baby anyway or go through with an abortion?

Life sometimes throws us curveballs that we have to be ready to hit. Many times we will find ourselves wondering about controversial issues and generating either an opinion or decision based on that issue. Is our opinion right? Will most people agree with the decision we have made? That in itself is a controversy. Controversies will always be encountered; we just have to be smart about our decisions and stand firm to what we believe.