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Showing posts from October 23, 2011

Don't Know Much about Stem Cell Research -- Writer's Poke #334

The number of scientists (or those with a strong science background) in Congress is very small, and yet it is Congress that has the power to decide how to regulate stem cell research. Does this make sense? Most individuals in Congress may be relatively intelligent, but how many use their intelligence to make informed decisions? Probably fewer than have strong science backgrounds.

In other words, politicians make their decisions based on politics. When it comes to stem cell research, my assumption is that most in Congress know about as much as I do about the topic, which is to say, not all that much. And yet, many of those in power have an open distrust for scientists. Why this distrust exists, I’m not sure, unless it’s because most scientists do not subscribe to the political views of a particular party.

Perhaps some politicians do not view scientists as being “true Americans.” After all, scientists are more likely not to believe in God, and scientists also have this weird fascinat…

Malcolm X and Capitalism -- Writer's Poke #333

“I have a copy of Malcolm X,” I said, “can we do a public screening at the college for Black History Month.” Sure, the librarian told me, but she reminded me that the DVD I had was licensed solely for my own personal viewing. If I wanted to screen the movie in public, the college would need to purchase a public-viewing license from the production company. And how much will that cost? I wondered. She emailed the company, and they told her the cost would be $500.

Even though I had the DVD in my possession, we weren’t allowed to use that copy. Instead, when we paid the $500 fee, the company sent another copy of the movie. To the naked eye, it looked exactly the same as my copy, but knowing that it cost $500 made it special. I should point out, too, that the licensing agreement was for a one-time public viewing. Just because we paid $500 didn’t mean we had the right to show it over and over and over again.

So we promoted the event around campus. We promised popcorn and soda. We even pro…

Programming Altruism -- Writer's Poke #332

Some people call it “paying it forward.” The idea is simple: just be nice to others. This sounds suspiciously like the Golden Rule, but how many of us actually like rules, golden or otherwise? Rules are, after all, so limiting, and nobody enjoys being told what to do, even if it’s for our own benefit.

Next time you’re at the McDonald’s drive-thru, consider telling the cashier that you’d like to pay for the person’s order behind you. Have you ever done this? It’s a small act of anonymous giving. You will never see the person’s reaction to this unexpected gift, and you’ll never even know if the person “deserved” the gift or not, but isn’t it silly to consider whether or not a person “deserves” a gift?

Santa Claus might ponder whether a person’s been naughty or nice, but that’s not our role. True gift-giving requires us to provide the gift without attaching any sort of judgment. Otherwise, it is not a gift freely given, and a gift with strings attached is no gift at all, really.

Most p…

Parts for Sale -- Writer's Poke #331

When I woke up, I discovered I was in my bathtub, but instead of with warm water, it was filled with ice. How long had I been asleep, and who had filled my bathtub with ice? As I stood up, I noticed that some of the ice was red, and that’s when I felt the sharp pain in my back.

I stumbled over to the bathroom mirror, and as I turned to examine my back, what I saw reminded me of my stupidity and greed. College had left me saddled with thousands of dollars in student loans. I would be paying off my four years of non-stop partying for the next 30 years.

So, yes, I was desperate. The girl I planned to marry told me that she didn’t want to start our lives together in debt. Basically, she told me that she loved me, but she didn’t love me enough to marry me – not until I had my financial situation fixed to her satisfaction.

It didn’t take me long to find John. He called himself a “problem solver,” and he told me that I had my own personal savings account. At first I had no idea what he wa…