Friday, January 29, 2010

The Youth of the Nation

The recent State of the Union Address given by President Obama has seemingly riled up quite a few fellow Americans. I'm not talking newsworthy marches or protests of grandeur, today's youth has chosen one of the current technological fads to discuss and make known their political opinions: facebook. The past few days I've spent quite a bit of time reading, contemplating, and outright laughing at the statuses of various facebook friends.

Don't get me wrong, I'm all for sharing your views with the world. This is America, after all, where the freedom of speech is practiced relatively freely and without harm. Each and every individual has the right to tell their peers what they think about our government; which is something that should not only be taken advantage of but encouraged, because how else can we hold on to the "for the people, by the people" ideology?

The problem that my generation seems to be encountering, however, is what is means to "share one's political beliefs." The large majority of the of statuses I've viewed contain no political ideologies whatsoever. Young adults left and right are making highly judgemental blanket statements, not about the Presidential Address, but about which political association is better/smarter/kinder/etc. Do we, as passionate advocates, lack the knowledge to differentiate between a criticism and slur? Do we, as educated college students, suffer from the inability to form a simple argument? After reading the facebook statuses of outraged Republicans and satisfied Democrats alike, my faith in the youth of the nation has been significantly diminished.

The following are examples of some of the statuses I found related to the State of the Union Address. I am in no way trying to point out specific people and insult their beliefs, I am only showing examples of intelligent people who, had they proposed an actual criticism, could have made much more of an impact and encouraged a respectful reaction rather than a dismayed one.

You may have noticed that most of these statuses and posts are from people who disagree(d) with some aspect of the Presidential Address, President Obama, or some political issue. This makes total sense, as most people are more driven to make their feelings known when those feelings are of frustration or anger. I searched the pages of several friends I have that are incredibly liberal, and yet only two had statuses referring to the Presidential Address (and one was talking about turning it into a drinking game, so I've neglected to include that in the above sample). Again, this is logical. You don't watch a TV show you love and then post a status about how good it was. However, if you see a TV show that you have certain expectations for and then it disappoints you, your facebook friends are sure to know about it within the hour. (Remember what happened when the latest season of "Scrubs" started? There was an uproar!)

It's not the emotion associated with the posts that bothers me, as I was definitely one of those people verbally protesting Scrubs this past fall. It's the complete and utter lack of an informed criticism that makes my heart bleed for the future of this country.

Not one of these posts mentions why they think the Address was a joke, or what policies they disagree with, or how they think our government should be handling any given situation. Had I been able to find statuses of people stating that they loved the Address I would have the same complaint: why do you love it?

We are adults. Reading these posts reminded me of the answers my parents would sometimes give me when I asked questions as a young child.
"Mom, why can't I stay up later?"
"Because you need to go to bed now."
"But why?"
"Because I said so."
"But why?"
Even at the age of four and five these responses infuriated me. What gives a person the power and authority to use "because I said so" as an adequate response to anything? Now, had my mom told me, "You have to go to bed now because if you stay up later you won't get as much sleep, which will make you very tired. If you are tired tomorrow you won't be able to pay attention in Kindergarten or run as fast at recess. You may even fall asleep before the PBS Special on polar bears is finished," then I would have shut my little five year old smart-ass mouth and gone to bed.

If you're going to make a remark on politics of any sort, you must back up that remark with legitimate reasoning. By not making an informed criticism about a policy or political happening and simply generalizing and simplifying your thoughts, you unintentionally come off as someone who really doesn't know anything about politics at all. This was an issue during the 2008 presidential elections as well. Thousands upon thousands of students would proudly wear an Obama or McCain sticker or button and excitedly join in the shouting and cheering of a rally, but when asked what policies they favored the most, over half these seemingly passionate students couldn't give a concrete answer. "I like Obama because I'm a liberal" means nothing. "I like McCain because I don't want to raise taxes" means nothing. "I'm in the middle because they're both good options" means nothing. Why? Why is that such a difficult question to answer?

Think of it this way: Let's say some big golf tournament is going on. (I know absolutely nothing about golf, nor I know if there are even any big golf tournaments, but just go with it.) I really don't care for watching golf, even though the rest of the nation (remember, hypothetical situation) has called in sick to work and canceled their doctor's appointments to make sure they can watch this tournament, so I change my facebook status to, "Joelle Bender would rather watch grass grow than listen to the polite and mundane clapping of the golf tournament." I am entitled to my opinion, so what's the problem? It's incredibly easy to rip my statement to shreds, that's the problem. What reasoning do I have to make such a cold blanket statement towards not only the people in the tournament, but the golf organization as a whole, as well as the millions of people who wanted to watch the tournament? If people comment on that status and ridicule my opinion, then I deserve every bit of it. I offered no back up. I made no attempt to defend my opinion. Hell, I never even gave an opinion; I merely used one of the most generic sarcastic phrases of all time to hint at my distaste for golf. Now, had I said, "Joelle Bender isn't enjoying the golf tournament because it is moving very slowly and there is a considerable lack of excitement, suspense, adrenaline, and violence, all of which are key characteristics to my personal definition of an entertaining sport. Perhaps they should add more obstacles such as rabid zombie gophers and sporadic fire holes," then I would have posted an acceptable opinionated status. People could argue my points, offer their own, and I could respond to their points, and offer up more of my own. This is how arguments work.

It doesn't matter if you're Republican or Democratic, Conservative or Liberal, Communist or a supporter of the United States Marijuana Party. Using uninformed blanket statements when it comes to something as important as politics is unacceptable. As cliche as it sounds, we are the future of this country. We are the people that will be making important decisions that will affect millions of people. We are the people that have an opportunity to impact our world. How can we ever dream of accomplishing our goals if we can't peacefully work side by side? How can we ever dream of peacefully working side by side if we can't respect each other's beliefs? How can we ever dream of respecting each other's beliefs of we can't intelligently share our world views?

Your opinion matters. Express yourself.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Things I Learned the First Day of Class

There are 6912 languages in the world.

Papua New Guinea speaks more languages (820) than any other country.

English has the most words; Taki-Taki has the least.

Kamir has the largest alphabet with 74 letters. Rotokans has the smallest with 12 letters.

Hans Christian Andersen was a bloody liar.

Every time you hear a tuning fork you have NEVER heard that exact sound before in your life.

Ogliodendrocytes are a type of glial cell that produce and maintain myelin. They're also fun to say.

The olfactory nerve is the only sensory nerve that doesn't take a detour through the thalamus before heading to it's appointed association location.

Rostro is another word for "face" in spanish.

Agua is a masculine word. Apparently I should have learned this years ago.

Scandinavian countries are generally very progressive, and the president of Iceland is not only a woman but is openly gay.

The Ugly Duckling in the original version was quite the smart ass.

Goodnight Hall is far away. From EVERYTHING.

Engineering Hall, on the other hand, is fantastic, conveniently located, and my new favorite building.

It's cheaper to buy bottled soda at the library than Walgreens.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Wikipedia, The World's Most "Credible" Site

  • Butterflies and buttercups do not relate in any way to the dairy product butter or flies.
  • The Bayeux Tapestry is not an actual tapestry. It is an embroidered cloth.
  • Guinea pigs are not pigs and do not come from Guinea. The "Guinea" may be a re-analysis of "Guyana", though they originate from the Andes and not Guyana.
  • A multi-valued function is not a mathematical function in the proper definition.
  • The same can be said about a generalized function, as such a function cannot be evaluated in some point(s); only the integrals of such functions have a 'common sense' meaning.
  • A disk laser usually is not disk at all; only the pumped region (sometimes) has a disk-shaped form.
  • A lead crystal is not a crystalline solid but an amorphous glass.
  • The Nintendo GameCube without an attached Game Boy Player accessory is not a cube because the sides are not all squares.
  • The Hundred Years' War did not last for 100 years but 116. It was actually a series of separate campaigns and battles which continued for 116 years (from 1337 to 1453).
  • The First World War and the Second World War were not fought throughout the entire world.
  • The Blitz was the sustained bombing of the United Kingdom by Nazi Germany between 7 September 1940 and 16 May 1941. Although the word Blitz is a shortening of the German word blitzkrieg, meaning "lightning war", it was not an example of blitzkrieg but was an early example of strategic bombing.
  • Catgut is made from sheep intestines.
  • Podcasting is not limited to the iPod, nor does the technology involve any casting as the consumers pull audio data onto their audio players. However, like broadcasting, it is a way of distributing audio or visual data to large numbers of people.
  • Heat lightning is actually lightning that is too far away for the thunder to be heard, but generally occurs during hot weather
  • Sugar soap contains neither sugar nor soap.
  • Smoked glass is so-called because it is stained to look like smoke, not because it is literally kippered.
  • Salad cream (a mayonnaise substitute) is so-called because mayonnaise is often (although not exclusively, as implied) used as a salad dressing. Unlike mayonnaise, salad cream is not particularly creamy.
  • An egg cream is really chocolate flavored syrup with seltzer and milk. It typically contains neither eggs nor cream.
  • Eggplants, although egg-shaped, are not ova.
  • An egg roll is an appetizer usually made by wrapping a combination of chopped vegetables, not eggs. It is actually so-called because the dough is dipped in egg or an egg-wash before frying.
  • The English Horn is, in fact, neither English nor a horn.
  • Head cheese is actually a meat product.
  • Grape-Nuts are made from neither grapes nor nuts.
  • A Mountain Beaver (Aplodontia rufa) is a primitive rodent unrelated, though fairly similar in appearance, to beavers not usually found in mountainous areas.
  • "Horny toads" or "horned frogs" are actually lizards.
  • In baseball, the common term "ground rule double" does not refer to ballpark-specific ground rules but is, in fact, provided in the standard rules, such as in Official Baseball Rules, Rule 6.09(d) through (h). Likewise, an uncaught third strike is often referred to as a "dropped" third strike, even though it is not necessarily dropped but it is simply not legally caught by the catcher. In addition, the foul lines on a baseball field are located in fair territory (Rule 2).
  • At Stanford University, the term "Stanford Cardinal" is often thought to refer to the bird. It actually refers to the school's team colors.
  • Photoshopping maybe done with image editors other than Adobe Photoshop, such as GIMP or Paint Shop Pro.
  • Vinho Verde is often supposed to be pale green, due to a too-literal translation of its name; in fact, in Portuguese as in English "green" is a metaphor for "young", and most Vinho Verde for the export market is white (and a pale yellow in colour).
  • Though from above a starfish resembles the popular five-point artistic rendering of a star, it is not, in fact, in the shape of a star, which is spheroid in shape. In addition, it is not a fish.
  • An inchworm is neither an inch long, nor a worm.
  • The English present and past subjunctive do not relate to the present and past in the literal sense, but are so named because they resemble the indicative present and past tenses in form.
  • A velvet ant is actually a type of wasp.

- Source:

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Kidnapping Success

Tonight I kidnapped a friend for a surprise birthday dinner. She hates surprises. She hates even more to be given special treatment. Unfortunately, the fight she put up was nothing like I expected; no rope or multi-person brute force was needed.

Success 1: I kept getting death stares and angry glances from her as we drove to dinner.

Success 2: Olive Garden

Success 3: There was no bloodshed.

Success 4: There was cake. Funfetti cake. And champagne.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Snowblades :)

These things are really really fun. All I want to do is ski, why is that such a problem?

Mission Stop Being Such A Pathetic Human Being

Today was day one of Mission Stop Being Such A Pathetic Human Being (Mission Stop, for short). The goal of this mission is to regain, if not surpass, the level of physical fitness I was at approximately a year ago. The short term goal is a half marathon in April....we'll see if that happens. Anyways..

Day One: It's snowing. This didn't by any means affect anything, I just felt the need to share it. I headed for the ever-popular Glacier Drumlin Bike Trail, and headed south towards the river. Not only is this part of the trail much prettier than the downtown portion, but it also smells significantly less like a pile of poo that's been lit on fire. I accomplished 2.5 miles of movement, about 2 miles of if was actually running. So, overall, I'd consider day one a minor success. I was pretty excited about one thing, however - there is no problem whatsoever with my legs. Therefore, lung capacity and endurance are my hurdles. I see this as a good thing because it's incredibly less painful to have your chest burning for a few minutes than to have sore legs for a day. Go me.

Then I came home and had hot chocolate, homemade chocolate chip cookies, and Tostitos. I never said anything about eating healthy.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Oh, To Be 13 Again

Brenna and I decided tonight was a good night to act like middle school girls. Innocent and expecting, seeing a perfect world around you where nothing major could possibly go wrong, yet tied up in the ever changing minute goings on of your friends. Sitting on her bedroom floor surrounded by a rainbow of yarn, occasionally unconsciously humming along to the music of the current mood, each of us curled into a ball with only our ridiculous themed socks poking out, we made friendship bracelets in silence.

"I want a boy to write me a song like this."

A simple enough response. One word, one syllable even, to the ignorant bystander incapable of conveying any meaning other than "yes, I acknowledge that you just said something but I don't care to fully respond at this moment". What the ignorant bystander doesn't know, however, is that "ha" has an unfathomable amount of significance. "Ha" means "You already had a boy write you a song like this, you fool. In fact he wrote you two or three," and "Don't we all," and "Yeah, but that's not how the real world works," etc. The silence ensues, but we each know exactly what the other is thinking about. I bet if we tried we could even trace each other's trains of thought and only reorder one or two events in the sequence.

"He has a girlfriend now."
"Oh yeah? That's good."
"Did your stomach just twist?"
"No, why?"
"Not even a little?"
"I think everyone's does. You could hate him or have gotten married yourself but I think your stomach would still twist at least a tiny bit the first time you found out."

I had a hell of a time finishing my bracelet. I kept knotting things in the wrong place or the wrong order. Most of the time it was because I'd get distracted by the conversation and lose count. Sometimes I just plain old wasn't paying attention.

"You two need to go out one night, and get a little tipsy. Not drunk, just tipsy."
"How would that help things?"
"You'll psychologically think your judgment is more impaired than it really is. That way you can say what you really want and are normally terrified to do and justify it by the fact that you were drinking, even though you're fully aware the entire time."
"No! Then I'll just look like a fool!"
"No you won't. He's in love with you, too, so he'd do the same thing and react accordingly, blaming it all on alcohol consumption. It's a foolproof plan."
"From now on I'm not having more than a sip when I'm with him."
"Shut up. I'll personally lace your drink with cocaine so that one sip will do the trick. Plus, once you start dating I'll get to hang out with him more, and we can play hockey."

Brenna and I are basically the same people when it comes to relationships. In fact, it is a scientific fact that two out of every three boys that ever has a thing for me will have a thing for Brenna immediately after. Similarly, all but one of the remaining boys will have or has had a thing for my other best friend; and if this turns out to be the case with the remaining one, I simply demand a prize for calling it ahead of time. Bottom line: we're really REALLY good at staying in the "friend zone". Now don't get me wrong, 99% of the time this is where we want to be and it's the guy that is getting screwed over. It just proves troublesome for that 1% of the time when, after mustering up enough courage to convince ourselves to lower our walls just a smidgen, too much time has passed and the game is reversed. She's in that awkward, never-discussed situation right now, and I'm making it my personal highly hypocritical mission to knock some sense into those two. It should be a good time. On the bright side, we each have an entire gang of "friend zone" boys to stand behind us in any situation where a little extra intimidation is needed. I curse at the realization that I've tied the wrong kind of knot to secure my bracelet to my wrist - and have already cut the extra yarn. Silver glitter nail polish should do the trick in making sure nothing becomes too loose.

"What would you do if he came back?"
"What, for Round Whatever-Number-We're-On? Ha."
"But what if he did? What if he told you he realized what he's put you through and gave you a true apology? What if he was ready to finally settle down and be serious? What if he had truly changed?"
"....I don't know...."

That's a lie. I do know. At least I know what I should do. I think we've got a pretty black and white track-record to go off of. But where's the fun in that. As to what I would do? No idea. That's the problem with not hating people - you can't completely block them out of your life. (Unless they make a conscious effort to do so, in which case this scenario wouldn't even apply, but that's besides the point.) There is no connection whatsoever between my brain and my heart. Logical, big-picture, cerebral Joelle and spontaneous, no regrets, emotional Joelle are two completely different people inhabiting the same body. (An image from "The Exorcism of Emily Rose" just popped into my head.) I'm like a conscious marionette who's desperately trying to make one movement while the strings are pulling me in the other direction. The problem is, we know each other too well. With the knowledge of how to make someone so happy they glow or become so angry that they stomp out of the room throwing in a few good door slams for added effect, there's no doubt that within five minutes we could sway the other in a preferred direction if they didn't have their guard up. The problem is, we know exactly how things will turn out. Perfectly fine. They always turn out on a much better note than should humanly be expected. The problem is, we don't hate each other. Good thing this is only a hypothetical situation; one that I won't have to revisit for a very long time, if ever. Because honestly, I'm quite content where I'm at right now.

I chose earthy tones for the colors of my bracelet. The glitter nail polish accents them nicely. Halfway through I realize that they happen to be U of M colors. Maybe I should have stuck with that decision. Maroon goes better with my skin tone than red.

"I think I'm going to spend the summer volunteering at an orphanage instead of studying abroad."
"Why'd you change your mind?"
"Because I can."

Friday, January 1, 2010

New Years Celebrations of the Elderly

I'm sure everyone is writing/blogging/boasting about their plentiful New Year's resolutions, (personally, I prefer to use "aspirations" because we all know that the majority of the time it's the thought that counts) and how they're going to go about fulfilling the new and improved human being they're about to become. That or there will be tales of reminiscing over the past year, the good and the bad, the help and the hurt, how they've grown and become humble. And good for them. They have the ability to set and follow goals, something I'm not too good at in the long term.

The reason for this post is to share with all you young whippersnappers what it will be like to bring in the New Year once we're "old," be that 30, 50, or 80. Last night was a quiet evening, quite contrary to what the stereotypical college student's night of fun is suppose to be; and yet I would classify it as one of the better New Years par-tays.

December 31st
1-4 a.m. - some suspenseful Dexter with the family followed by one of the most ridiculous infomercials I've ever seen and a game-show from the 50's guest staring Lucille Ball.

8 a.m. - wake up to find that my puppy is curled up in a ball under the covers with me, being my "little spoon" in the snugglefest

10 a.m. - leave for a day of skiing (only my most favoritestest activity in the entire world) and have a nice siesta in the car to the Top 100 Music Countdown of 2009

11:30 a.m. - SUBWAY MEATBALL SUB!!!!!

12-4:30 p.m. - snow, snow, and more snow. The terrain park isn't too crowded, there's barely any ice, and we had gift certificates to get free cookie/brownie bars during our breaks.

6:30 p.m. - 45 minute hot shower with the "massage" setting. Ahhhhhhh....

8-11:59 p.m. - board games and electric trains, mashed potatoes and pitzels, fireplace and hot chocolate; all with family and family friends, including my favorite baby.

January 1st, 2010 12:20 a.m. - everyone is exhausted, and my puppy follows me upstairs to preheat my bed for me.

Happy New Year, indeed.