Blog 16: Civil Disobedience

After reading Civil Disobedience, I have realized that Thoreau and I have some things in common. I agree with his statement that “government is best which governs least.” In my eyes, government has its main use in basics functions, such as operating courts, and maintaining military and police forces. There are a few other uses that it has, but I am not a huge fan of government interfering in the lives of the people. This also applies to economic issues. In my eyes, we are better off economically when there is less government interference and less regulation. Things like tariffs, high tax rates, and government owned enterprises make the economy as a whole less efficient, which is worse for the people as a whole. Having more government means less freedom and more conformity, something Thoreau and I are not big fans of.

A government that “commands my respect,” as Thoreau says, is one that operates for the good of the people while giving the people enough freedom to make their own choices. This is a somewhat vague description that was off the top of my head, but it sounds like a pretty solid description to me. As I have said before, government allowing freedom is very important to me, but I understand that having a government at all is still integral to a well-functioning society. An overbearing government that impedes on the freedom of its people does not deserve the respect of those people.

Having protest and civil disobedience in today’s society is still very important. Like almost anything, protest in its most radical forms can be detrimental. Using violence in protest is definitely not the way to get things done, but non-violent protests can be a good way to get thoughts out there and kind of “get the pot stirring.” Another form of protest that is sometimes used is to protest the government is to refuse to pay taxes that can be considered unjust. Some people refuse to pay taxes altogether. While I understand the reasoning behind this type of disobedience, it oftentimes just ends in the perpetrator getting arrested for tax evasion. Overall, we must have protest in our society as a way to combat injustices in our world.

 

Blog 15: Thoreau’s Attempt

We are only a few days into our unit on Transcendentalism, and I have already concluded that it is going to be a long couple of weeks. It is not that I find the topic uninteresting, the problem is that it’s a fairly complex thing to think about, which makes some of the work that is associated with it very difficult. The latest works we have read in class have been two excerpts from Henry David Thoreau’s “Walden.” I’ve noticed that many of their ideas are similar, but that should be expected, as they both were considered Transcendentalists. In the first excerpt, “Where I lived, and What I Lived for,” Thoreau talks about his reasoning in his choice to live in the woods. Like Emerson, he liked the idea of “simplifying” his life by reducing it to some of the most basic things there are in this world. By cutting down his priorities and focusing on only a couple things at a time, he was able to ponder more on more important topics, like life’s purpose, nature, and religion. In the second excerpt, titled “The Conclusion,” Thoreau focuses more on his reasoning behind his eventual abandonment of “the woods.” From what I understand, the main reason for this was that he wanted more time to try something new in his life. At first, this came as a surprise to me, since many transcendentalists at the time praised this simple living that he had been embracing. It was at this point that I remembered Emerson’s writings about consistency, more specifically how much he loathed consistency, as it can breed conformity. After remembering this, it no longer surprised me that Thoreau would suddenly walk away in order to find something new to better himself.

In all honesty, I don’t think that I could spend time away in the woods like Thoreau did. It very well may have benefits to it, but it would be tough for me to put down everything that is important to me and everything that I have ever known, especially technology. To be fair, many of the things that Thoreau was eager to escape were things that became commonplace during his lifetime. For me, I grew up with technology and have never lived a second of my life in a world where it wasn’t available. So there is a huge difference there. Nonetheless, I thought it was interesting to read his thoughts on his intellectual journey and I commend his bravery in abandoning the comfort of society in pursuit of self-improvement.

Walden Pond

 

Blog 14: End of Argument

I am very glad to hear that our unit on argument is coming to a close. Normally, I love to argue, but I did not enjoy doing research and putting forward points about the topic I was assigned, which was Pay-to-Play athletics. Even though I enjoy watching sports, I don’t play them, and this topic really did not interest me whatsoever. I also think I would have enjoyed it a lot more if I had a more well-known topic, because getting information on Pay-to-play was much tougher than I had initially expected. Even though I didn’t like my topic, I still learned a lot of things about debating. I think that if I had to do a formal debate now, I would be much better off than if we had never done this unit in the first place. I likely would have used a lot of logical fallacies, and a lot of my sources would have been considered unreliable. The past few weeks have helped teach the importance of argument, and especially the research that goes on behind it. Without researching and talking about these things with other people, we may become complacent with our opinions and support common fallacies, ones which may have negative results that we wouldn’t support if we knew more of the whole picture. I’ve also realized that many adults today use a lot of logical fallacies in their arguments. From Ad Hominems and Slippery Slopes to outright Red Herrings, modern day political discussions are full of fallacies. I’ve noticed that even non-political arguments are full of these issues I had never noticed. Although developing a valid argument is often difficult and can take a lot of time dedicated to research, it is clearly worth the cost. As a society, it is better off if we are not anarchists, so we have to have debate to help in establishing morals, laws, etc. Once these things are established, we still need to have things that are constantly being looked at in order for improvement to happen. Overall, I’ve learned that our unit on argument was an important one, even though it wasn’t one that I enjoyed all too much.

Topic Selection and First Thoughts

The debate topic I received from the hat was Pay-to-Play High school sports. I have to argue for pay-to-play high school sports. I’m relatively happy with the results of the drawing, because it’s not a real hot topic, which helps things as far as emotions are concerned. The problem with having a smaller topic is that it is harder to find reliable information and studies. Something like abortion or gun control may have a debate where tensions are higher, but at least there is plenty of information out there for both sides. I really don’t know where I stand on this issue personally. I don’t play any sports, so I’ve never really experienced either side of this debate. A basic Google search brings up a couple of viewpoints regarding pay-to-play, but few are from any sources that I’ve actually heard of. Of course, this doesn’t necessarily mean that they are unreliable, it just means that I might have to do a little more digging than I normally would for a more well known topic. After looking at a couple of articles for just a few minutes, I think I can argue the point that pay-to-play helps keep alive the programs that would be cut from funding otherwise. Also, this form of funding avoids charging taxpayers. Some people may feel it is wrong to pay (through taxes) for programs that their children don’t even participate in. The main problem that I can see coming is that the other side of this argument has the emotional argument on their side. The con side can say that having pay-to-play programs in high school takes away opportunity from students of lower-income families. This is a hard point to argue against, but it is one that it invalid in some cases. For example, many of the programs come about because a certain sport is going to have its funding cut. In a situation like this, it’s better to have a cost to play the sport than to not have the sport at all. Overall, I think I’ll be okay, but the other side may have more emotional appeal.

Blog 12: Changes

A current issue I wouldn’t mind drawing out of the hat in class would be concerning anti-trust laws. Many people these days would argue for more laws to stop what they consider “unfair monopolies,” but I could argue for the outright abolition of anti-trust laws. While most people would be on the “pro anti-trust” side of the argument, there are clear premises for both sides. The “Pro” side of the argument goes as follows: Anti-Trust laws are needed to prevent monopolies, which could enforce very unfair pricing on the consumers. The other side of the argument goes along these lines: All harmful monopolies are created by government, so monopolies that have the ability to harm consumers are not possible in an truly free market, therefore there is no need for anti-trust laws. Personally, I’m of the opinion that they aren’t needed, but if I hadn’t read any books about it, I definitely would be all for them. As far as school is concerned, we are a couple of weeks out from officially being halfway through the school year. Looking back, the first eighty or so days have been pretty good. Nothing really special has happened, but I have kept my grades up to my personal standard, stuck with the same group of friends that I like, and have started looking at some colleges I may be interested in. The only problem I can think of is my ongoing habit of procrastination. The obvious way to improve on this habit would be to just work on things a little earlier, maybe even in a few installments instead of all at once, but I just can’t seem to do that. I’ve tried a few times, but procrastinating is just something I’ve done since I can remember, so whenever I think “I should work on that,” I immediately think “I’ve still got time before that is due.” It is probably something I will have to change in college, along with studying more often, but I don’t think it will be all that difficult if I really put my mind to it. That’s all for now.

The “Trust Buster.”

Virtues Experiment

Trying out my group’s virtues made for one very interesting week. Before I reflect on the results, I will list each virtue and the number of times I violated the virtue during the week.

Cleanliness: 0

Frugality: 2

Thankfulness: 1

Tranquility: 4

Justice: 0

Order: 1

Fitness: 2

Temperance: 0

Industry: 2

Resolution: 0

Chastity: 0

Synergy: 0

Sincerity: 2

Moderation: 1

Humility: 2

After looking at this, I’ve realized that I made seventeen mistakes over the past week, and those are just the ones that I remembered at the end of each day. There obviously could have been more that I just glanced over. That is over two mistakes each day. Clearly, I’m not a perfect person, but I didn’t really think that was going to be possible in the first place. A lot of the virtues were not very challenging, especially ones like Cleanliness, Chastity, and Temperance. Those are just things I practice everyday, so it wasn’t much of a change for me. Others though, were much more challenging than I had initially expected. Frugality, for example, was one of the virtues that I thought would be a breeze. I ended up violating the virtue twice, as I bought a brand new keyboard and mouse for my new computer. I counted it as a violation of the virtue because the items were not something I needed. I already had a working keyboard and mouse, but I wanted more high end equipment, so I forked over the money. Another one I had difficulty with was Industry. One of the reasons I struggled was because of the definition of “wasting time.” I found it to be a very subjective term, as my version of wasting time may not be the same as yours. I did find two instances where the violation was pretty clear. Both times were in study hall, where I ended up using the period to talk to my friends instead of finish my homework. Throughout the week, the virtue I struggled with the most was tranquility. I knew I’d have a few problems with this one, as I tend to get worked up pretty easily. Though I don’t think that I’ll keep tracking my performance with these virtues, it was not an experience that I regret, since it gave me some insight as to where I struggle the most.

 

Ben Franklin Himself

Blog 10: Back to Analysis

Walking into class Thursday was like a nightmare. I was under the impression that we were done with poetry altogether, but I had forgotten that was was only the writing portion of poetry that we were done with. Oh well, I’m still holding out hope that we will be moving onto a brand new unit soon. The new poem we had to read was called “The Dodo’s Conundrum.” I am honestly not too sure why that is the title of the poem, as it seems to be about a strange man who likes to build model train sets. I think that it was a more advanced piece of work when compared to some of the other pieces that we have read this year, but I did not find it too much more challenging to analyze. It seemed very strange and incoherent at first, but once Torsten pointed out a pattern in the stanza structure, things were easier to understand. Our table concluded that the theme was something along the lines of “the real world is a flawed place, or at least chaotic.” We came to that conclusion because we noticed that the stanzas that were about the model train world were very structured, while the stanzas about the real world were free verse. There were also other clues as to the theme. A more obvious one was the way the world “siren” was used throughout the poem. It was used in the mythological sense to describe how tempting the fantasy train world was to the narrator, but it was also used in its more common meaning to show the chaos of the modern world. One of the less obvious clues was the narrator praising Thoreau, who isolated himself from the world. Overall, it only took us a single period to complete the sound and sense questions. Though it was partly because we were allowed to work together, it was also because we have already written and analyzed poems of our own. I have figured out that once you write two poems on your own from scratch, it is considerably easier to break down other poems.

 

The End of Poetry

Personally, I’m thrilled that our poetry unit is over. While I definitely did not hate it as much as I once expected, it still would not be my first pick. At first, the writing requirements looked impossible, so naturally, I procrastinated as long as I possibly could. My first attempt at a poem was alright, but I don’t think that it was anything special. It had a rhyme scheme, but it barely had a solid form. My second poem was much easier to write. It had more meaning, and had a longer requirement in terms of lines, but it didn’t take me nearly as long as my first poem. I would assume that is because my second poem followed a much easier rhythm pattern, and once you get going with a line or two you can knock out a whole poem pretty quickly. Another reason I finished the poems with more ease than I initially expected was because of my topic, which was money. I, like everyone I’ve ever met, love money, so it wasn’t something that I had trouble writing about.

Poetry, like many other art forms, from video games to books, can use words and images to convey meaning. I have already conveyed meaning through words, but our very last assignment in poetry (I hope) is to add images to help in conveying our theme. Fortunately, this is much easier than writing the poem from scratch, because I already have what I am trying to say put into words. The only step left is actually finding the proper images that help the audience understand. For example, one of my lines talked about how money, at least in the form of cash, doesn’t have any material value unless everyone trusts that it does. At first, that seemed like a strange topic to put into an image form, but then I remembered that the picture is only supposed to help, convey meaning, not do the job all on its own. With that in mind, I decided to just add a picture of a blank piece of paper, to show what money really is at its core. Without any text, a reader would have no idea what the picture meant, but with the combination of the text and image, the reader can understand exactly what message I’m trying to put out there.

With that said, here is an image that should convey some meaning to go along with the text.

Poetry

I came into this unit hating poetry. The only poetry I had actually read was the stuff that we were forced to read in eighth grade, which only consisted of a few poems by Edgar Allen Poe. I don’t think he was a bad poet, but I just don’t think that anything he wrote about was interesting. Unfortunately for me, the first poem we read this year was another by Poe. Fortunately for me, I thought Eldorado was much more entertaining than Poe’s other works. That is likely because it’s different from most of his work in that it has a happy mood (at least for the first stanza). My problem with the poem came when it was time to analyze for theme and structure. Analyzing these poems for their theme is understandable, even though it can be very frustrating at times. My main issue is with poem structure. In my opinion, breaking down the rhythm and rhyme schemes is one of the most boring things on the face of the earth. It is probably so boring because of my distaste for the subjects. If I were asked to break down the story structure and theme of The Witcher 3 then I would gladly oblige, but I just don’t have as much enthusiasm for something like Eldorado. Breaking down and analyzing structure is one thing, but creating a poem within these guidelines is even tougher. I have figured this out the hard way, since I don’t even have a stanza of my own poem complete as of the time I am writing this blog. Luckily, it’s not due for another two days, so I have some time to think things over some more. Hopefully, as the year progresses, I will be able to improve at analyzing and maybe even find a poem or two that I enjoy. I honestly think that I could enjoy poetry, but I have to be able to find the right topic/poet, because Poe’s depressing poems certainly are not doing the trick for me. That’s about all for now, I have to go take advantage of the Double XP Weekend on Call of Duty.

Blog 6: Finishing Your Story

My story has changed a lot from my initial ideas to what it is now. At first, my entire plot revolved around the Witness Protection Program, until I realized that it was not created for another thirty years after my story takes place. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize this until I was almost done with my rough draft. After discovering what had happened, I had to take a few laps around my house. At this point, I’ve changed a lot of the plot, but I have been procrastinating as far as the peer review changes go. The problem is that it’s due tomorrow, so I can’t procrastinate for much longer. I don’t think that my story is bad if you just look at the plot, but i certainly don’t think that it is well written. Another thing that I have been putting off is my independent reading. I started out at a really good pace, but I have not read any of my book in two weeks. The book is a biography about Leonardo Da Vinci. It is well written and Leonardo is an interesting character, but his area of expertise is not something that I am enticed by. Also, I have just been more occupied playing Xbox and trying to learn card tricks, with emphasis on the word “trying.” These are attempts coming from a person who can’t even shuffle without all of the cards falling onto the ground. As far as my second book goes, I have not decided what I will be reading. I do know that it won’t be a biography, mainly because I don’t want to read two biographies in a nine week span. Not that biographies are inherently bad, but they just are not the most exciting thing in the world. Alright, that’s all I have to say because I just passed the word minimum.

Da Vinci

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