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November 18, 2011

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Perry, Riposte!

Posted by Sidney Fletcher

The sport of politics is often criticized (fairly) for being somewhat petty and vicious. However, the upside of this is the opportunity to watch witty people go after each other.

Adding to the amateur-quixotic nature of his campaign nowadays, GOP presidential candidate Rick Perry recently called on House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to debate him in Washington on his Overhaul Washington plan. The plan, in case you’re not familiar (didn’t seem to get a lot of media coverage), includes turning Congress into a part-time job, ending lifetime appointments for judges, ending all regulations, and eliminating three Cabinet departments.

Pelosi recently responded to Perry, giving three reasons why she would not debate him:

“He did ask if I could debate here in Washington on Monday,” Pelosi said on the Capitol. “It is my understanding that such a letter has come in. Monday I’m going to be in Portland in the morning and I’m going to be visiting some of our labs in the afternoon, that’s two, [but] I can’t remember what the third thing is I’m going to be doing.”

I laughed quite a bit at this one before people in the Chemistry library started giving me the evil eye.


November 2, 2011

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What’s the word?

Posted by Austin Zoot

There is a growing popularity of a game that has astonished me in my experience with it. The game is a popular one on iPhones and IPods, and one that is becoming even more popular every day. This game has, however, been around for decades before Apple ever released a MP3 device, let alone a gaming phone.
The game is Words With Friends. For those who don’t know what it is, Words with Friends is an online form of Scrabble, using letter tiles to create crossword puzzles. A participant can challenge friends to play against, and get points based on the complexity and length of the word being played. If you haven’t played Scrabble and are unfamiliar with the game, I must ask you what happened to your childhood.
What is most surprising about this booming game is the intellectual element of it. You are playing a game that stretches the extent of your knowledge of the English language and your ability to manipulate it with other words. I know one individual who went so far as to create a list of all of the different word combinations he has ever used for three, four, and five letter words, so that he will never lose an opportunity to make a play during a round.
I hope by exposing the intellectual benefit I don’t kill the popularity of the game, because I think it is incredibly valuable to society that we spend our free time doing something that can make us smarter. The ability for the game to make people get excited about the possibility of outsmarting their peers is a fun way that iPhones can improve our lives, beyond simply giving us the ability to fling avian creatures at discolored swine.
Within the convenience of the iPhone, there is an incredible opportunity to use our time for a huge number of games, applications, and more. To use that time to do something that is both fun and mentally stimulating is a positive use of our time and energy.


October 31, 2011

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If You;re Reading This…

Posted by Austin Zoot

Reading was a huge part of developing an education in elementary school. We were taught that homework was about “free reading” and book reports and fiction. Now, though, as a college student, I get the strangest looks in the world every time I get “caught” reading a book for fun. People will ask me “What class is THAT for?” Why can’t I just read because it is interesting, worldly, and educational?
One argument that I have heard against free-reading is that it does not give any kind of educational benefit, and rather is a way to avoid the real world. Although I can agree that some elements of fiction do not give a concrete explanation of the world, what it does instead is it gives a different type of view on the world that I, as a reader, may not have had up to that point. Being able to read something from the view of a writer that may not share your own perspective, or from a country that is very different from your own allows the reader to do something that would be otherwise impossible: get inside the head of another person.
On another level, if reading fiction does not feel sufficient for education, reading non-fiction can also be just as entertaining and probably more education in a straightforward manner. Since I arrived on campus, I have read several books from the library that are all non-fiction, but that were not in any way class related. If I only get to take five classes at a time, getting the chance to read multiple books a month on different topics allows me to get the breadth that IU so often emphasizes.
And although it can often be difficult to find time to read anything other than what is assigned by a teacher, reading independently can be just as valuable to an education as anything that is taught in a classroom. There is so much material available that is out there that it is a waste to ignore all of the opportunities for learning.

October 27, 2011

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Behind the uneven Shalit equation

Posted by espitzer

Gilad Shalit is home. The Israeli Defence Force soldier spent five years and four months, or 1,940 days, in captivity, and his homecoming marks an event I honestly thought would never occur.
Captured by militants who illegally tunneled into Israel from the Gaza Strip and triggered a surprise attack on his tank crew, two of Shalit’s comrades were killed when the 19-year-old soldier was snatched and held virtually incommunicado until just last week.
Finally, Shalit, known as Israel’s son, sleeps in his own bed.
The swap equation goes like this: 1,027 for one. That’s 1,027 prisoners for one abducted soldier. These convicts, including members of the terrorist organization Hamas, were imprisoned for carrying out terrorist attacks and killing civilians. And now, they have been exchanged for a single, innocent soldier.
Now, if know your arithmetic, this doesn’t match up. Forget numbers and forget ratios — a swap that requires a democratic country to return 1,027 prisoners is logically flawed.
The swap has been quite controversial, which is no surprise. Many, horrified by the fact that so many terrorists have been released, are rededicating themselves to violence.
This reaction makes perfect, rational sense. Still, the Shalit deal passed with flying colors in the Israeli cabinet with 26 in favor and three opposed.
How did such a swap receive such outstanding agreement? Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Israeli cabinet voted in conjunction with the Israeli ideology to never leave even a single son behind.
“I found myself faced with the necessity of bringing home someone who had been sent into the battlefield by the state of Israel,” Netanyahu said in a press conference last Tuesday, shortly after Shalit’s arrival. “As a soldier and army officer, I was sent by the IDF to carry out dangerous missions, but I always knew that if I or if any of my friends fell into enemy hands, the State of Israel would do everything in its power to send us home.”
Gilad Shalit’s return home is celebrated by Israel and its supporters around the world.
Among all the excitement, the swap is still bittersweet — terrific, but still terrifying. Israel and the ideologies the country has perpetuated send an outstanding message to the community.
To strengthen the morale of the state’s citizens and the IDF soldiers while upholding the country’s admirable ideals, the government spared no expense to bring home a fighting soldier. The concern for the life and protection of every citizen of Israel speaks volumes for the nation’s values and should certainly speak to the global community as to why Israel needs support in its fight against terrorism.
While Israel and its supporters celebrate life, its enemies seem to be celebrating a chance to destroy it. Wafa al-Bass is one of the 1,027 to be released in the exchange. In 2005, she was found at the border with more than 20 pounds of explosives sewn to her underwear, planning to blow herself up to kill Israelis. Al-Bass spoke to school children in the Gaza Strip last Wednesday, the day after her release, to share her vision for the future, according to Reuters,
“I hope you will walk the same path we took and God willing, we will see some of you as martyrs,” she said to the cheering students.
Israel prioritizes the protection of one life while released terrorist prisoners preach for the destruction of the people of Israel.
As Israel rejoices in the reunification of Shalit and his familial community, the world must not fail to recognize the type of “peace” partner that Israel faces and its commitment to life, humanity and morality, no matter who the enemy.

— espitzer@indiana.edu

October 26, 2011

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An hour overtime

Posted by Austin Zoot

I started a sociology class on Monday that is going to test my abilities in ways that I could never have imagined. No, the class content is not particularly challenging, and no, the homework is not particularly overwhelming. What I learned most clearly is that I am going to be challenged by a two and a half hour class.
Sitting still for a two and a half hour lecture twice a week sounds like a punishment. I’m not sure what I was thinking when I signed up for this class; I must have been blinded by the enticement of a math class that I actually liked, or, maybe, the fact that it would only last eight weeks.
Now, after having spent two days in this class, I am kicking myself. I desperately want to love this class. It is interesting, engaging, and useful in the real world. Unfortunately, all of those benefits quickly go by the wayside when class hits hour number 1.5. I can’t focus. I start getting cross-eyed, dozing off, and scribbling in my notebook, the whole nine yards of mindlessness.
I’m sure someone in the psychology department would love to study me to create a study associated with the thresholds of engagement, but let me save you hours of research: the answer is well shorter than two and a half hours.
Based on my collegiate experience to this point (which I will admit is limited) I would have to say that one hour is optimal for reaching, maintaining, and holding the attention of a normal human being.
So I’m going to try my best to maintain focus through this entire time. I’m going to do my best to be an engaged, interested participant. I will try my best to stay off this beautiful laptop and stay away from tetris online. Maybe I’ll make a graph of my success.

October 24, 2011

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The good, the bad, and the healing

Posted by Austin Zoot

One of the hardest lessons that life has to offer is one that I am unfortunately learning this week. The concept is one that has plagued people of religion for centuries, and even causes strife in the hearts of those who claim no religious belief.
This struggle is with the question of why bad things happen to good people. There is a member of my community that has been diagnosed with lymphoma. She is a high school junior who I know to be one of the kindest, sweetest people I know. There is no legitimate reason why she should be subjected to such physical and emotional pain.
The question can arise as to how God plays into this? If there is a God, how can He or She allow such a horrible thing to occur to someone, especially with no action on her part to deserve it? How can a religious person morph their view of God to incorporate this?
Unfortunately, as is often the case when discussing God, we have no real idea of how God plays into all of this, let alone at all. The part that I see as most holy, however, is not her diagnosis. What is more divine is the support that she is receiving from her peers and her family, and the love that other human beings are demonstrating simply by being close to her in proximity.
Everyone is, in some way shape or form, related to cancer. I have unfortunately learned this the hard way on a few occasions. What helps those who are touched by this disease is not the getting better, although eventually recovering is pretty significant, but rather the feeling of support felt by someone who is going through a rough time.
Overall, this weekend I learned two very tough lessons. The first was that sometimes bad things happen for no apparent reason, and we as people, have the challenge of dealing with that. On the other hand, being a support system for someone who is suffering is not only a worthwhile but also an inspiring way to get through a tough time, both from the perspective of someone who is suffering and someone who is aiding.

October 21, 2011

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Either way, you have got to pay

Posted by Austin Zoot

I did an interesting calculation today while in my math class, although I will admit that it had nothing to do with what the professor was lecturing about. The calculation was that I am paying approximately $45 for every hour in the classroom.

$45 is a lot of money per hour. This is especially the case when I have multiple classes a day, adding up to quite a hefty chunck of change per day of education.

That money is, in a way, an investment. We are willing to pay $45 for an hour of education in the hopes that one day it will pay off with a job that will give an exponentially higher return. I know that I am, as a general rule, willing to make the exchange, because I know that with a solid education I will be able to have a more fulfilling life.

On the flip-side of this coin, what happens if and when I ditch class? I still have to pay my $45. There is no “shotty attendance discount.” Instead, that means I am throwing that $45 away and not getting the possible benefit later. If my parents thought I was pissing away $45 at a time, I’d be pulled out of school from “lack of funding.”

So, basically, the money I am spending on a college education has the potential to be a vitally important contribution to my ability to get a job and make a difference in the world. To do this, though, I actually have to attend the classes that I am shelling out the big bucks for either way.

Notice I nowhere say YOU should go to class. I don’t care if you make it there or sleep in or drink or any other form of college living. Your $45 for each hour has already been paid. If you want to reap the benefit, great. Otherwise, I can get an educaiton from professors with resources for a whole class directed at me. I get a superb education either way.

October 20, 2011

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Being alone is not being a loner

Posted by Austin Zoot

Since the moment I arrived on campus, I feel as though I have been surrounded by other people all the time. No matter where I am, there are people hustling and bustling around. Living in a quad, I am not even alone when I am in my room, as there is always someone else around.
This is a serious social situation. I think that it is imperative to find some times during life to simply be alone with one’s own thoughts. Being around people creates a social necessity for interaction. Being totally alone for a period of time allows someone to have some much needed rest, to reconnect with his or her own thoughts, and to become comfortable with the person they are. It is often too easy to change yourself to fit into the mold of what you think others may want, but when you are completely alone, you are the only person who needs to be comfortable. To get a real assessment of who you are as a person, sometimes it’s important to do so alone, and not amongst a crowd.
One of the biggest issues associated with this, though, is the stigma associated with being alone. All too often, in the cafeteria or in the dorm, if you are alone, you are susceptible to being considered a loner or aloof. In truth, though, eating alone in the cafeteria once in a while can offer the opportunity to make the time spent with others all the more valuable.
I personally learned that the racquetball courts at the Student Recreational Sports Center are an awesome place to get the much needed time to myself. Because of the soundproof nature of the box, I can feel totally isolated, be able to do something physically taxing and emotionally cathartic, and, when I want to, talk to myself (as crazy as that sounds). That is one of the places that I find most comfortable with myself, and I am able be more socially rejuvenated after.

October 19, 2011

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Hoping for peace means working toward it

Posted by Austin Zoot

Today marks the release of Gilad Shalit from his captivity, five years after being taken hostage by Hamas, a terrorist organization in the Middle East. Shalit is an Israeli soldier who has become something of a rallying force amongst Israel and its supporters.
After his five years of bondage, Shalit touched Israeli soil for the first time this morning, after first passing through Egypt. The Egyptians were decisive in mitigating the deal that would release a little over a thousand prisoners from Israeli jails in the exchange, many of whom are terrorists in their own right and very blatantly have the blood of thousands of Israelis on their hands.
What I learned from today’s press conference, festivities and joy is a sense of hope. For five long years Israelis and Jews across the globe have prayed for the safe return of this young man, who is just a few years removed from my age. To be able to see the day that we have prayed for come true is a beautiful thing. To see a reunion of a father and his long-lost son is something right out of a storybook, and I know that I am privileged to be able to watch and remember.
I understand what it means to hope for the safety of a single human being. The real hope, though, did not wait on Gilad Shalit, but rather what he stood for, and what he remains to stand for. To the people of Israel, this young man represents the oppression of terrorism and the pursuit of not only freedom, but peace as well.
I continue to hope for the day that we can call the world a more whole, peaceful place. I hope that the return of Gilad will serve as the first step in this journey. I also hope that those who lead our nations look to make peace from this situation, and use the good feelings felt by Israelis and Jews in the diaspora reach into a brighter future.

October 17, 2011

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The start to the blogging experience

Posted by Austin Zoot

For the past few weeks, I have been blogging on this site as a columnist for the Indiana Daily Student. During that time, I was attempting to grow comfortable with the writing style that would make my writing relevant to the blogosphere on this particular site, as opposed to my personal blog.
Now that I have had the chance to get my feet wet, I wanted to take the opportunity to create a theme for my blogging, something to connect all of the blog content together and create continuity. I also wanted to create this for a personal continuity, allowing me to connect the work that I do for this blog with the work that I am doing in college and beyond.
The decision I came to was to blog about my learning experiences here in college. As a freshman, this is my first experience living for a long period of time on my own, and I am learning an incredible deal about the world, the way people interact, and the way people behave.
What I intend to is to blog four days a week about one thing that I learn each day. Some of the things that I learn will come directly from the classroom: I’m paying the big bucks to receive a college education at a much respected institution. Some things, however, will not be from class. These lessons will somehow influence the way in which I view the world and the way in which I can better understand it.
This is both a personal journey and a communal opportunity. I hope my experiences will shed some light on this experience for freshman in the future. I hope I can help others who may be experiencing similar challenges or opportunities. I also hope that it will be at least mildly interesting and entertaining.
Let the blogging begin.

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