It’s Science!

The Inorganic Carbon Cycle
The Inorganic Carbon Cycle

And I’m just not that into it. I was having a conversation with a friend recently and we agreed that humanities are better than science any day of the week. I realize the irony of conveying that message using a device and medium created by modern science, but I suppose I’ve always enjoyed studying ideas and social constructs more than things.

I’m studying climate change this summer in the last required “core” course for my BA. I had a few choices. I could have taken biology, chemistry or an earth science course on global warming and climate change. I wanted to take biology, but the course was too late at night. Chemistry I would have failed, I’m sure. I hated chemistry in high school. Something about memorizing the periodic table and atomic weights seemed completely pointless to me. When would one be doing science and not have a copy handy to use as a reference guide if needed, really?

Anyway, there are things about this class that I find interesting. First of all, I agree with the basic premise that global warming is a real and happening (not in the fashion sense) thing. The planet is getting warmer. It has done this in the past, but this time it’s different because we’re converting all of the carbon that used to be underground into carbon that’s in the atmosphere, which causes the planet to retain more heat. I have a hard time understanding how people can look at the multiple data sets available for temperature change, change in carbon in the atmosphere, and see the huge spike associated with increased human activity (burning fossil fuels, creating gases) and brush it off as a joke or hoax. When Miami is underwater, I wonder if people will still be claiming it’s a conspiracy?

Beyond that, it’s pretty cool to see how volcanoes and the El Nino weather pattern affects global temperatures. Or to examine the what-ifs of climate change. Famine, drought, flooding, shifting coastlines and floating cities. It might even be sort of cool, except for all of the people that would die along the way.

The actual mechanics and math of climate change is tedious. It is painful to sit down and look through long charts of numbers, plugging them into formulas and whatnot to get measurements of changes in temperatures.

Anyway, there are about two weeks left in this class. Then I’ll start getting myself together for Fall semester.

Speech Foundations Is Pretty Cool After All

When I signed up for the Speech Foundations class I’m taking right now, I assumed it would be lame.  It’s a whole semester worth of one class packed into one month.  I thought there would be a lot of work, a lot of speaking, and… I mean just what can you really do in a speech class that’s interesting?

Well, thankfully I was wrong.  The way the Professor runs the class, with multiple group and class activities, seeing each other for 2.5 hours a day, we all got to know each other pretty quickly and I find myself looking forward to going.  Every day the professor has a different set of activities for us, which often call on individuals in the class to put forward personal opinions which in turn stimulates a debate.  Thankfully it’s all polite debate.  Thankfully the class has a wide range of opinions, which keeps things interesting.  The time goes by pretty quickly.

Somehow, we seem to find ourselves discussing religion quite a bit.  I think it’s because we have Christians, Jews and Muslims all in the class together.  It’s turning into a real learning opportunity.  I learned from a Jewish girl that it’s not kosher to eat a cheeseburger, because it’s like bathing a dead baby cow (the meat) in the mother’s milk (the cheese), which, when you think about it, is pretty gruesome.  I got to tell a guy from Turkey that the US wasn’t the first nation to import slaves.  I met a guy whose grandmother escaped from the Nazis during WWII.  I met a guy from Morocco.  I met a girl that sings Jazz and is studying music.

I think what I like most about the class, though, is that it’s turning out to be a great place where we can all get together and bounce ideas around, from the history of Jazz to the treatment of women in Islam, and it’s all cool.  No one freaks out.  Not yet at least.  I think I’ll actually be sad when this class ends, the same way I was a little disappointed when my World Humanities and Art History classes ended last semester.  I’m looking forward to taking World Civ next month though.  That should be pretty cool.

Anyway, expect a nifty update about how Jazz influenced the civil rights movement in the US in the next few days.  It’s part of a group presentation project I’m working on for my ‘informative’ speech.  For my ‘ceremonial’ speech, I wrote a fictional speech by Creon, celebrating the 5th anniversary of Thebes being liberated from the Sphinx.  I’m considering posting that too.

A Shift in Self-Identified Important Virtues, In-Class Project

In my Speech Foundations class today we did an interesting class project.  We were put into groups and we had to come up with a list of what we thought were common virtues that we thought were important as a group.  When all of the groups were done, the lists were put on the board.  Then the professor circled all of the themes, the virtues that showed up in most of the lists.  What stood out was that people in the class value family, friends, religious tolerance, honesty and loyalty (to friends and family).

The professor said that this simple class project is an interesting way for her to judge society as a whole, since the things that are listed change over time.  She said she’s been doing this same class project every semester since she started teaching, and she looks like she’s in her early 60s, so I imagine that goes back quite a ways.

She said that when she first started teaching, money was at the top of every list.  Students were very concerned with money, both having it and making lots of it.  Interestingly enough, the only list on the board that contained ‘money’ was from a group of people who were all first generation immigrants.  I imagine it has to do with perceived financial capacity.  Our economy may be faltering, but people are still generally taken care of, whereas people from other countries might not have those same safety nets, or might have family back home that they’re concerned about.

The next thing she pointed out was that most groups didn’t place family and friends on the list prior to September 11th, 2001.  She said that ‘religious tolerance’ and similar ideas started showing up shortly after that.  Her theory on the addition of family and friends is that after people died in an attack here in the US, it made people realize that they might not actually see their family or friends later.  Something could happen, so people started to value those ideas more, and perhaps their friends and families too.

I think the appearance of religious tolerance on these lists comes from the deluge of information people are exposed to now, in light of the war with Middle Eastern countries.  This conflict has been portrayed as a clash of civilizations and more often as a clash between religions.  To combat rampant fear of every ‘other’, ideas of religious tolerance, especially towards Muslims, has become prominent in everything from TV to classrooms.

The point of the exercise was to demonstrate what type of audience the class is.  It’s a Speech class, and the most important part of writing a speech is knowing who your speech is intended for.

Spring Break is Over and it Wasn’t Much Fun

A tree with blooming flowers on CCNY's campus in New York City.

When I was in high school, I used to look forward to holidays, because I knew they were days where I could relax.  That’s what a holiday is for, right?  Relaxing and taking a break so that you can go back to your studies (or job) refreshed and recharged.  Once I started working full time, I thought back to when I’d have long holidays (what seemed like all the time) when I was in school and I’d wish that we could do the same thing in the Army.  Granted, we got a lot of days off in the Army, but there was nothing like getting a week off at a time.  Not unless you used your paid vacation time anyway.

So, when I started going back to college full time on the Post 9/11 GI Bill (which pays my full tuition and living allowance), I thought I would get a chance to take advantage of those breaks again, and that this time I could really put them to good use, and savor them, because I know what it’s like to not have them.  So, I was looking forward to this Spring Break and hoped to use it to spend my days at the museums, in the parks, or just doing whatever I wanted to do, and it almost happened.

I say almost, because in one of my classes we were assigned a huge project over Spring Break.  I can understand being expected to complete the reading for the next scheduled class during the break, but who really sets up a huge, time consuming project to be done over Spring Break?  The project culminated in an essay.  The essay itself wasn’t that hard to write, and didn’t take much time, but gathering the data required interviewing 20 people.  I also won’t say that it wasn’t interesting, because it was, but it just seems like the timing of when it was assigned was just so… awful.  This project could have been handed out and then turned in the week before the end of class.  To get that many interviews takes time!

If you’ve ever been in the streets of New York, or maybe anywhere, you’d know that you can barely get someone to stop for a moment to give you directions, let alone ask them 15 minutes of questions.  Further complicating the matter was that the people answering the questions all had to be within a certain age range: old to older.  By that I mean they had to be 55+, at the least.  I had a lot of issues finding 20 people in that age range to answer questions, especially since the weather wasn’t good the first 6 days of the break.  I find that old people tend to stay home when it’s cold and rainy out.  I finally managed to get my last interview done yesterday, the last day of Spring Break.  Then I had to rush through the essay, which I turned in today.

This project was hanging over my head the entire break, drowning out any possible relaxation and enjoyment with constant worrying over whether or not I could complete the interviews, and how I would form the results into anything meaningful enough to be called an essay.

This Spring Break just wasn’t what I was hoping for.

It wasn’t all bad though.  I got to spend some quality time with my mom and went with her to her church’s Easter production.  That was entertaining.  I got to finally start watching the series Lost.  Ya, I know I’m a few years late on that.  I also got to see the premier of Game of Thrones.  It looks awesome, and makes me wish I’d read the books.  I’m definitely looking forward to seeing the next episodes.

The weather finally took a nice turn yesterday.  It was actually 82 here.  Today it was a bit cooler.  I think it peaked at about 72.  Hopefully it’ll stay warm this time.  On my way home from class today I had dinner in Union Square Park and walked around a bit, taking photos, before I went into Barnes & Noble to browse around.  I wanted to take a look at the Nook Color.  It somehow just doesn’t feel as natural in my hand, or on my eyes, as the Kindle does.