Saturday, June 23, 2007
The Only Global Warming Message You Need to Hear
The topic of global warming has received a lot of attention in recent times, due to (mankind’s misuse of earth’s natural resources/scare-mongering by the far left). While (most members of the scientific community/some high profile politicians) say the recent trend of warmer weather is due to human (irresponsibility/productivity), there are (a few misguided individuals/many reputable scientists) who disagree.
All rational observers agree that (a drastic change/a normal fluctuation) in the earth’s climate is taking place, due to (man-made causes/natural events). Many (esteemed scientists/hucksters) say that his phenomena will result in adverse weather conditions around the world that threaten human society, (and/but) these warnings (cannot/ought to) be ignored. The indisputable event of global climate change calls for (immediate and drastic action/a calm and measured approach) which preserves (the nature we all must live in/both the environment and our economy).
The debate on this topic was (sadly ignored/kept in proper perspective) while Americans dealt with the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the war in Iraq. However, it was (returned to its proper place at the front of public discourse/blown wildly out of proportion) by our former vice president and (tireless public advocate/shameless provocateur), Al Gore. Through his (insightful and thought-provoking/woefully exaggerated) documentary An Inconvenient Truth, Gore succeeded in (starting an important policy debate/thrusting himself back in the spotlight), and accomplished his goal of (a more environmentally-conscious America/making a lot of money and winning an Oscar for himself).
As Gore (tirelessly advocates a greener future/soaks up money while lounging in his electricity-guzzling home), a few (Flat Earth Society rejects/brave souls who refuse to be shouted down) like Michael Crichton and John Stossel have expressed (puzzling/eye-opening) doubts about his evidence. Their data, which leads many to believe that the former vice president has used overstated and erroneous evidence (is itself misleading/punctures Gore’s whole argument). The (ghastly/long-serving) Republican James Inhofe of Oklahoma, who holds a high-ranking seat on the Senate’s Committee on Environment and Public Works, has (nonsensically/occasionally) called global warming a “hoax” and compared the green movement’s adherents to the Third Reich.
Inhofe’s statements are the words of a (reactionary lunatic/person whom reasonable skeptics of global warming aren’t proud to have on their side). However, overblown oratory such as his should not distract Americans from the highest priority of this debate, which is to (make the earth a safe place for our children/avoid devastating the U.S. economy over an unrealistic threat). If the American government enacted changes such as capping carbon emissions and exploring alternate sources of energy, our example would (provide a beacon for the rest of the world/be ignored by more prolific polluters like China, anyway). Cutting the amount of air pollution we produce would require (a few simple/numerous and unrealistic) changes in the average American’s lifestyle. Ultimately, the best way to reduce carbon emissions lies with (government action and regulation/free market incentives for businesses).
Unfortunately, President Bush has (moved too slowly to enact changes in American policies/chosen to humor the environmental movement), and now promotes a long-term plan to combat climate change at the G8 summit in Europe. This move (comes as too little and far too late/gives the Chicken Littles on the left an air of credibility they don’t deserve). If the president truly wanted to help, he would (have worked to cut carbon emissions and end America’s dependence on foreign oil long ago/encourage more debate between the environmentalists and their doubters). Sadly, this is only the latest disappointing chapter in the saga of a president who is (beholden to big-business and the right-wing agenda/continuing to sell out his conservative supporters).
However, this won’t prevent the (environmentally conscientious/ leftist, tree-hugging) activists from (inviting/trying to coerce) all of you to join them in their quest. What is required of you is (a few simple/a lot of confusing and complicated) changes in the way you manage your household and select the products you buy. We hope that all Americans will join together in making a (greener/fiscally solvent) future for the children of the next generation. Climate science may seem a confusing topic for the layman, but all you really have to do is listen to those who are (environmentally responsible/ skeptics of phony science) and completely ignore the other side of the argument. Those such as (James Inhofe and John Stossel/ Al Gore and The Weather Channel) are motivated by politics and personal gain. They don’t have your best interests in mind.
We hope that clears things up.
Safe from North Korea? (Part II)
Wednesday, June 20, 2007
Jeong-Hyun Lim, also known as funtwo, plays Canon in D major. Do not try this at home.
Saturday, June 16, 2007
America Needs New Laws for the Morning
One other thing that always seems to be true: they retain roughly the same amount of popularity. In last fall’s election, spurred on by President Bush’s 30 percent (give or take a few points, based on whether or not he had given a speech that week demonstrating his “resolve,” whatever that was supposed to be) control of Congress changed hands and Democrats picked up 31 House seats. The results of that election have been real and tangible: approval ratings for Congress have skyrocketed from roughly half that of the president’s to slightly behind the president’s, but within the margin of error.
If the Democrats want to solidify their majority in 2008, they have two options: 1) they can unify and campaign under the platform of “Thanks, But We Actually Wanted the Other 31 House Seats” or 2) they can think of innovative legislation that benefits you and I personally.
There are millions of Americans living in border states who didn’t go to college because studying got in the way of their teenage pastimes of underage drinking, and yet still believe society owes them a job. If I were one of those, I’m sure I would care about illegal immigrants coming to take away that gainful employment I’d be owed due to the liquor holding skill I’d been practicing since my youth.
Since I’m not part of that voting bloc, I’d prefer to see Congress tackle an issue that’s much closer to me and many others. It’s an issue that causes thousands of accidents, hinders millions of working Americans, and costs us countless hours of efficiency. The problem of which I speak is, of course, mornings.
If America’s economy is to stay ahead of the Chinese, something has to be done about mornings, and promptly. I envision a bill with the following clauses (I don’t know how the sections of the bill will be numbered, so I’ll just use years when the St. Louis Cardinals won the World Series):
Sec. 1926-Adjustment of temporal flow
There have been a number of incidents in which citizens have awoken, started a bowl of cereal at 7:07 a.m. while skimming the sports section and, upon finishing the headlines, suddenly noticed that it is now 7:38.
Therefore, between the hours between 6-8 a.m., there shall henceforth be allotted twice as many minutes as all other hours of the day. This will give these citizens enough time for the adequate brushing of the teeth, and maybe enough time to reach the business section.
Sec. 1934-Adjustment of gravitational pull
An alarming number of incidents have taken place in which citizens have awoken, and, in their groggy state of mind, attempted to pour a complementary amount of 2 percent milk into a bowl of Wheaties. However, they overestimate their own strength and/or presence of mind at this early time of day, causing a not inconsequential portion of said dairy product to hurdle out of the food vessel and onto the citizens’ shirt/blouse.
This causes the citizen to lose anywhere from five-15 minutes choosing a new non-gender specific garment to adorn their torso, in addition to time that must be spent cleaning kitchen furniture the dairy product has escaped onto.
Therefore, federal funding will be allotted to research groups seeking to develop gravitational reduction devices we may equip each American home with for those morning hours.
Sec. 1964-Enhanced dairy longevity
Time spent pouring the milk into the cereal can be avoided in the mornings altogether, and instead done in the evenings, when the citizen’s increased state of alertness may allow for greater time savings. Therefore, research must be financed into the development of milk which maintains its freshness overnight. This clause is complementary to:
Sec. 1982-Strengthened integrity of breakfast cereal
Milk which does not sour of overnight is of little use to the breakfast-consuming citizen whose cereal has experienced post meridiem soggification. Henceforth, research into cereal which retains its constitution while immersed in dairy overnight must also be funded.
Sec. 2006-Status of those considered excessively adroit during the ante meridiem hours
It has come to our attention that there is a significant demographic of Americans who refer to themselves as “morning people.” They are characterized by early arrival at the workplace, a noticeable lack of facial creases, and a preternaturally positive temperament in the hours before lunch.
“Morning people” shall henceforth be required to register with the federal government. The above changes appropriated above shall not apply to the morning people, since they obviously don’t need the help. However, these people shall henceforth be required by law to stop being so happy about it.
Now we have a law the American people of all political persuasions can appreciate. If a congressman or senator wants to latch on an amendment requiring the mass-production of an appliance that can keep bananas from going bad so quickly, I’m all for that, too.
Monday, June 11, 2007
No Brain - Non Nehgeh Banesoh
My favorite Korean song. The chorus means "I'm Falling Into You."
Sunday, June 10, 2007
The Upside of Feeling Used
It’s approaching two years since I first came to South Korea, and in that time, I’ve grown considerably more skilled at a) catching mosquitoes with my bare hands, and b) public speaking. The first skill is optional, as some might not mind being awoken at 3:30 a.m. wee-winged visitor. “You can wake up now ‘cause I’m flying too close to your ear,” he communicates via a linguistic series of buzzings, “or you can wake up later with a desperate urge to scratch the red welts on you shoulders. Take your pick.”
The second skill has been far more necessary for my survival at the Seventh-day Adventist Language Institute.
While I generally had a cordial relationship with the English language, our dealings with one another have been similar to that of an adept broker with stocks: given enough time, I usually choose the right one. With no preparation, and with numerous onlookers scrutinizing my choices, I am more likely to resemble a first-time car-buyer facing a high-pressure salesman: I not only make the wrong choice, I do so in an undignified manner, and while giving away my debit card information.
I’ve long recognized my need to improve in this department; after all, no one would choose to appear slow-witted and inarticulate, unless he was seeking extra votes by appearing “folksy.” So, for years I hoped that I would be given more chances to grow comfortable while speaking, but since I was uncomfortable while speaking I never asked for these opportunities.
I suppose the turning point took place in 2003, when the pastor of my home church in rural West Tennessee asked me for help. Far removed from his native land in South Africa, the pastor was responsible for ministering to four churches in the area, meaning he could only speak at each one about once a month. During his absences, other arrangements had to be made, including asking the laypeople to fill in.
One on summer day, in his distinctly Dutch Afrikaans accent, he asked me to be one of those chosen laypeople, using words an American probably never would say.
“You’re a writer, Rob. I’d like to use you up front in church. Can I use you some time?”
“Of course,” I said. “I want to be used. By the church, I mean.”
So, once every couple of months, I would speak to our congregation about whatever topic I could write about and then read for at least 15 minutes. Usually, this was done by summarizing a Bible story and comparing it to something in my life: i.e. Gideon was afraid to face the vast, oppressive Midianite army, while I’m afraid of writing something and reading it from a pulpit for at least 15 minutes..
I did this several times before I left to go to Korea. All teachers who work for SDA have to fill out a form full of various skills, such as playing a stringed instrument or using Microsoft Excel. I checked the box beside “giving sermons;” after all, I had done so about a half-dozen times without visibly drooling on myself, so I considered it a “skill.”
Each of the SDA Language Institutes has a church with its own regular members, plus students who attend in order to learn by hearing a Korean sermon translated into English, or vice-versa. Teachers who come to Korea soon find that there are a whole host of activities they will be asked to do without drooling on themselves. Week to week, church members and other teachers will probe for all the activities you can possibly perform, until they reach your limit.
“Can you sing a song during church service today?” I have been asked, five minutes before the program began.
“I … guess so,” I have responded.
“Can you do a sermon this weekend?” I have also been asked, three days in advance.
“Uhm … I suppose,” I have said.
“We’d love for you to play the piano during the program,” they have stated, full of optimism they hoped would be infectious.
“And I’d love to speak Mandarin Chinese,” I state, inoculated by reality. “But I don’t think it’s gonna happen tonight.”
The first time I spoke to my home church, I slept less than five hours the night before because I was busy contemplating all the ways it could go wrong. One of the reasons I came to Korea was so that I could conquer my apprehension by bombarding it with experience. Since coming to Korea, I have given sermon or speech no less than 10 times, been invited to a sister institute as guest speaker, and twice led a 90-minute writing seminar at the summer/winter camps our institute hosts for students.
None of these experiences during the actual speeches have been particularly bad, but the surfeit of nervous energy, loss of appetite, and the restless nights preceding my time up front never seem to go away, especially when I know it’s a brand new audience.
However, once finished, it’s always good to know that you have been used for a good purpose. My home pastor was only the first person I convinced of my ability; if I can ever convince myself, I’ll really be getting somewhere.
Sunday, June 03, 2007
I Got Them from Mitt Romney
Quitting Coke is a Conundrum
Most of my memories from before my 10th birthday are a haze, so I don’t recall the first time I was given a soft drink. Maybe it was given to me by my mother, or maybe by my older sisters. Maybe it was a Coke, a Pepsi, or one of those imitation varieties they sell at grocery stores that cater to the thrifty, the poverty stricken and the obese.
What I know for certain is that I was given a carbonated beverage some time in my very early days. What I am also pretty sure of is that my dad probably lectured me about it later that day.
We lived in Tennessee, where people work long hours, considering the consumption of fatty foods and beverages bereft of nutritional value their reward. Dad, however, was a transplant Midwesterner, where they share the value of work ethic, but rarely think of the benefit involved because they assume the government will take whatever the reward is away from them before they can enjoy it.
On top of that, we were Seventh-day Adventists, a group not known for their fun-loving lifestyles. So, due either to religious beliefs, or to the farmer’s creed that labor is its own reward, I was told that activities such as eating chicken, reading fiction, playing video games and watching TV programs other than This Old House and The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer were bad. “If you enjoy it, it’s probably bad for you,” might have been a suitable motto in our household.
Carbonated beverages in particular drew Dad’s ire. With every one I took in, I was ruining my teeth because of their high pH content, ruining any chance of becoming an athlete due to their lack of nutritional value, and probably ruining my ability to concentrate due to caffeine. One day in my adulthood, all my teeth would be rotted and I wouldn’t be able do anything about it, because I hadn’t been able to focus long enough to get a job with dental insurance, and I’d squandered whatever chance I’d had of having an athletic scholarship to fall back on.
I suppose there were valid underlying points to these arguments, but the mind of boy before his 10th birthday cannot fathom the concept of long-term effects. In essence, young boys are the antithesis of the adult Midwestern man. When told not to eat an entire bowl of candy because it will make him sick, the boy will say, “But I like it!”
When told not to play video games until midnight, because his thumbs will be sore and he won’t be able to sleep because he will see the on-screen pixilated characters when he closes his eyes, he will say “But it’s fun!”
When told not to grab an electric fence and thus receive a painful shock, he will say, “But I want to!”
Faced with such logic, a parent can only do two things: take away the object the boy loves and be reviled for it, or simply discourage the use of it and be ignored. Either way, you hope that one day he will understand your wisdom. Regarding “pop,” as Midwesterners call it, my dad chose the later.
By my second daily can of whatever beverage I was enjoying, my dad would tell me that I was a “popaholic” and was “always drinking.” My sisters would chime in, probably more in jest than anything, saying “Yes, Rob, you’ve got a drinking problem.”
My consumption of carbonation continued, probably at the rate of at least one a day, through my teen and early adult years and beyond 2005, when I left to teach English in Korea. Since then, I have visited six foreign countries, sometimes only long enough to tour the insides of their airports, but always long enough to see what their Coke tastes like. The answer is always the same: exquisite.
One thing that is different about Korea, however, is that there is a much higher population of dads here. Most Americans would cringe if they see a hospital patient standing outside the lobby, clutching and IV in one hand and a lit cigar in the other. However, unless he’s a member of our family or a close friend we’d assume he doesn’t want our help. However, Koreans, as near as I can tell, have no idiom which roughly translates into “Live and let live.”
In fact, health, and mine in particular, is one of their very favorite topics of conversation. The Korean staff of Seventh-day Adventist Language Institute have the distinction of being both Korean and SDA, a health-conscious crew if their ever was one.
“Robert-uh,” they would often say in their thick accents, “that is not good for health.”
“Are you a nutritionist?” I would say, drinking in defiance.
“Robert-uh, how is your health?” they would ask on other days.
“Are you my doctor?” I would respond.
“Robert-uh, I’m worried about your health,” they would tell me on other occasions.
“Are you my dad?” I would say, exasperated.
Finally, in May, after more than 20 years of suggestions, advice, and other polite forms of coercion, I decided to give up Coke, Dr. Pepper, Pepsi and all other colas (Sprite doesn’t count cause it’s not caffeinated, and I’ve only ever had it sparingly). I haven’t had any in more than 30 days. I haven’t had any bouts with in insomnia and my tooth enamel has stopped slowly rotting away.
But there is one more, and perhaps greater benefit from this abstention: now my dads on both sides of the Pacific will leave me alone.
Not even the government can take that away from me.
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