Never too late to change bad traditions

7 04 2008

NewsI don’t go to grocery stores regularly, so it was somewhat surprising when I approached the checkout line and saw television screens at every lane for people to watch. The only thing that surprised me more was that the lady in front of me was carrying totes to put her groceries in instead of disposable bags. It’s like the most obvious way to save resources that the U.S. hasn’t promoted for decades.

plastic bag

Finally, things are about to change. Countries across the world are banning or taxing the use of plastic bags, including Italy, Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, South Africa, and China beginning in June. Why customers have become so attached to their wasteful plastic bags, I’ll never know. Personally, I feel pretty bad any time I stuff a pile of them into a trash can. I think to myself, there has to be a way this could have been avoided. Finally, someone’s getting something right.





Putin meets with NATO leaders and algaculture

4 04 2008

ArticlesI personally have nothing against the University of Cincinnati’s newspaper, The News Record, but seriously…

On the front page of the April 3, 2008 issue, there is a headline above a picture reading Solar-power alternative. The picture depicts a field in front of one of the college buildings covered with pinwheels. Then beneath that is the caption for the photograph, which reads, “Pinwheels in the ground on McMicken Commons represented the 1,000 people that die from some form of terminal cancer every day.”

pinwheel2

I am now absolutely lost on the intended meaning of the photo.

Perhaps the headline is implying that, because solar-power is not a worthwhile endeavor, we should offer our resources to some alternative cause, such as curing cancer. The irony, of course, would be that the pinwheels imitate sources of wind power, which is an alternative to solar-power. But what then does wind power have to do with terminal cancer? I would really like to know.

Or perhaps the the headline implies that a good alternative to solar power is wasting resources. Solar power is usually tagged when speaking of alternative forms of energy and environmental causes, but here there is none of that at all. All I see is a magnificent waste of plastic, in the form of pinwheels, promoting ideas completely contrary to those usually related to solar power. What else are we to believe other than that the university does not support environmental causes?

That last possibility is that someone wished to tag a photograph with a completely irrelevant headline to make it appear as if the University has some sort of relationship with alternative energy research that is most easily disseminated subliminally. If this is the case, I recommend insert random keywords like green, conservation, and algaculture into headlines whenever possible. Nothing sends subliminal messages like “Ethnic Unrest Continues in China and Algaculture.”





Portuguese authorities lengthen cruise

3 04 2008

NewsThe Portuguese government interfered with the vacations of many as it detained the cruise ship Van Gogh in the Madeira Islands. The cruise was meant to be 93 days long, but unfortunately no one knows how long dealing with the legal troubles will take. Passengers were allowed to leave if they wished, but the majority have decided to stay and wait for the dispute to resolve.

Van Gogh

Many of the passengers are now wondering how they got into this mess. After handing out tens of thousands of dollars, how can they be betrayed by the ship’s owners? The entire dispute, after all, is between the owners of a Dutch company called Club Cruise and another called Travelscope. Unfortunately, the passengers simply got caught in the middle. Why Travelscope decided to catch the cruise ship during mid-cruise instead of waiting until after is anybody’s guess. Perhaps they thought it would be amusing to ruin the vacations of hundreds of people.

It pains me to think of anyone who might have to give the bad news: “Honey, our vacation is going to last longer than we expected. Sorry.”





Something amazing, I guess

31 03 2008

Wow, everything seems to be stalling. The news is pretty standard for this time of year: March Madness, more on Iraq, political scandals. I just had a Spring Break where absolutely nothing happened. Looking back, it’s hard to tell if it even happened at all. So now I feel like the little boy on the tricycle from The Incredibles:

Now all I have to decide is whether I’m going to just sit here and wait for it to come to me or go out and search for it myself. It’s quite a dilemma. I’m running out of things to think about.





300 ways to to cause controversy

28 03 2008

PlugsI finally got around to watching the movie 300 in all its glory. No, it wasn’t one of my favorite movies. Yes, it was one of the most visually spectacular films I have ever seen. Overall, though, it was an enjoyable journey into a fantasy world of crazed and battle-hungry men.

300

I emphasize that it was a fantasy world because it seems that way too many people took the movie completely seriously. The movie is based on a graphic novel, the same medium that portrays people as a superheros and all kinds of wondrous and villainous monsters for them to face. It just so happens that the ancient Persians were portrayed as the antagonists in the graphic novel by Frank Miller.

While there is significant historical backing for the occurrence of the Battle of Thermopylae, upon which 300 is based, there is very little conclusive evidence surrounding the various causes and effects of the battle. We have just as much reason to believe that the Spartans were, in fact, the antagonists, and the Persians were the protagonists, hence the controversy.

However, I believe that the politicians far and wide who have publicly denounced the film are only insulting themselves. They are using fiction to fuel political controversy, something that should be avoided at all costs. While Frank Miller certainly wasn’t honoring the memory of the Persians when he drew his novel, his goal was only to create a stark contrast, to make his fictional Spartans 100% for honor and glory. The goal was not to be historically accurate, since that is impossible anyway. Isn’t it a bit below these political figures to also be the national fantasy media reviewer? Shouldn’t they be spending their time trying to improve living conditions or creating beneficial laws?

Many people have touched on this topic before, but it’s worth reiterating. People often choose to be offended just for the sake of being angry. No one in the ex-Persian regions of the Middle-East can swear, “My fifty-times-great grandfather, assuming he lived in the the Persian Empire, was nothing like the Persians portrayed in that movie,” but they will anyway. It might be true, it might almost definitely be true, but we still won’t ever know. So how about we just forget about being offended and see the movie for its amazing visuals and for the Spartans who fought for glory and honor, no matter how stupid or evil they might have really been.





Think Responsibly

21 03 2008

PlugsIt seems that I have been subconsciously watching dreams of similar natures recently. Among them are Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Memento, both of which deal with memory loss.  The implications of not knowing what happened this morning, yesterday, of ten years ago give rise to a great deal of controversy, mostly because people choose to dream of only the advantages and not the disadvantages.

Both movies suggest that memory is an integral part of living.  Without it, we can never move forward from experiences.  We just get stuck in repeat, making the same mistakes over and over again.  However, this brings in to question what everyone who presently has their memories fully intact are doing.

People are constantly making repeated mistakes: diplomatic mistakes, relational mistakes, physical mistakes.  These two movies show us how embarassing it can be to not know the same reality as another.  You don’t think you’ve met this person before, but others know you have, and you are left being forced to laugh at yourself because you look ridiculous.  But occurrences like these aren’t reserved for those with broken memories.  Since we are lucky enough to have more or less complete knowledge of the things we do and the choices we make, shouldn’t we feel compelled to not follow in the footsteps of these people?  Don’t we have a responsibility to use correctly the only thing that allows us to know who we are and what we’re doing?

I believe too many people take memory for granted.  They throw it away with drugs or simply choose to make choices based on instinct or irrational thoughts.   With alcohol, people often throw around sayings like “Drink responsibly.”  How about a new one, “Think responsibly.”

Both movies are absolutely fantastic and definitely worth seeing once, if not multiple times.





Green fuel hypocrisy

12 03 2008

NewsFor years biofuel has been praised as an alternative fuel source to fossil fuels that is more readily renewable. It has also been key in efforts to reduce greenhouse gas production and potentially reverse production. However, all is not as it seems.

The use of biofuels is becoming increasingly controversial as the many side effects begin to show themselves. A majority of biofuels produced in the U.S. use crops like corn and rapeseed, which are of course grown on farms. Multiple reports show that the energy and resources used to prepare the land, grow the crops, gather them, then refine them in to fuels actually creates more pollution than is reduced by the biofuels created from the crops. In fact, some findings hint that, though biofuels may not not produce as many carbon emissions as fossil fuels, they often create more nitrous oxides, which are equally responsible for greenhouse gases.

They are also not nearly as cost effective, although that should be pretty obvious. We have to produce these ourselves, whereas fossil fuels are just waiting there underground for us to take. Our economy is already suffering (according to those who decide if the economy is suffering or not), so it’s debatable whether we should be venturing into unknown territory without first researching the multitude of consequences.

biofuel

More recently, it has been discovered that refinery plants often release oil byproducts into nearby waterways. Though the oil (in the form of glycerin) is labeled as “non-toxic,” the way it interacts with rivers and streams depletes the oxygen available to water life and wrecks the entire environment as a result. At least one endangered species (pocketbook mussels) has become extinct due to glycerin dumping by biodiesel plants.

Last but certainly not least, farms provide food for us to eat. Increasing numbers of them are disappearing as America becomes more urbanized, and more food products are being imported from other countries. As a result, food prices are rising constantly, and American deficits are ever-increasing. Is it really worth it to start a project like this that probably can’t be sustained for decades to come.

It is often called green fuel, labeled with the hype of the go-green revolution and the environmental awareness that’s all the rage right now. Perhaps the enthusiasm to encourage change and making a difference is blinding those who should be looking deeper beneath the surface to truly understand the consequences of their actions.

I am not suggesting that other better biofuels could or should not be researched. There is currently interest in algaculture, the farming of algae for use as biofuel. Unlike present fuel sources, algae grows quickly, cheaply and with little human interference. The goal right now is to be able to grow it efficiently and to be able to tap into its energy reserves, which is much more difficult than with current fuel sources. Eleven U.S. companies currently use algae in the creation of biofuels.