Hockey Season Starts Tomorrow!

And I am totally excited. Sure, I am still disappointed about the Sharks’ less than stellar performance in last year’s playoffs, and I don’t expect them to have the same stellar regular season this year as they did last year, but I do think they will do well enough to make the playoffs. Once that happens it will  be entirely up to them to prove that they are not the CHOKERS everyone sees them as.

Regardless of how they do this season, it is exciting that Hockey 2009-2010 is about to start.

They play the Colorado Avalanche tomorrow night, and that means I am going to have to stay up late if I want to watch/listen to it (which I do).

Why not both?

It seems that in today’s world there are only two options available to people facing tough issues. These options are best summarized by George W. Bush when he said “If you’re not with us you’re with the terrorists.” Not only is this a fallacy, but it is harmful to the discourse in this country. It is this attitude that has people on the left and the right shouting at each other and calling each other all kinds of uncouth names instead of having a rational, well thought out discussion/argument.

The latest example of this line of thinking is this.

On one hand there is the argument that abstinence only education works and is the only option because if we teach children about proper contraception usage then they are going to go out and have sex. This may be true, but at least they would be having safe sex, properly, and this is something. On the other hand there is the camp that says abstinence only education does not work, that teenagers are going to have sex regardless, and it is better to inform them of the risks of unprotected sex than to let them go out and find out first hand about syphilis, chlamydia, pregnancy, et al.

I fall into the latter camp, to be sure, because I truly believe that teenagers will have sex no matter what they are taught. Or at least the ones who are going to have sex anyway. Abstinence seem to me only likely to work if the person is predisposed toward abstinence because of either religious or personal convictions, and even these people sometimes give in to their baser carnal desires. When that happens all that abstinent only education just turns into a waste of time and money.

However, just because I personally disagree that abstinence only education is an efficient way to prevent the spread of STD’s and pregnancy among young adults, I do not necessarily disagree that abstinence should be taught as part of an all inclusive sexual education program. There is a place for abstinence education in our schools, just as there is a place for proper prophylactic education. After all, we can tell kids that the only guaranteed way to guard against STD’s and pregnancy is to remain abstinent, but they have to be willing to listen and take it seriously.

Plus, what happens when they leave high school and go to college? At my university we did not have sex ed classes–sure we had anatomy and other things but no real sex ed classes–and thanks to increased exposure to drugs, alcohol, and different viewpoints college students are almost more guaranteed to have sex than their high school counterparts, but people were having all kinds of sex. Now, most of them knew how to use contraception correctly, some of them did not, but that did not keep them from dancing between the sheets as it were.

My point is that part of high school education is preparing our kids for the adult world that they will soon be entering. This should include safe and responsible sex practices, and just because we do not like the idea of our kids having sex, does not mean that it won’t happen, and abstinence only education just serves to put them at risk for pregnancy or STD”s.

But see, the thing is we don’t have to choose between abstinence education and sex ed that includes how to put on a condom. We can teach abstinence (though to me abstinence is more of a moral stance than a scientific one–but it is true that it is nearly impossible to get an STD without having sex and it is impossible to get pregnant) and safe sex in the same program. It might even be better than just one or the other because it would offer more choices and information to students who might be feeling overwhelmed with sexual desire or pressured to have sex even if they do not really want to.

We should not be scared of sex education that teaches more than “don’t have sex.” We should embrace and utilize all of the tools and methods at our disposal to help stop the wildfire like spreading of teen pregnancy and STD’s.

But that is not the culture in which we currently live. In our culture there is no room for both, just one or the other, and to me that is a damn shame because we are effectively limiting ourselves to 50% and denying a more complete and reasoned discussion.

Back at School

So I started my third semester teaching here at the Technical University of Liberec today, and I must say it was not too bad. I only had to teach two classes, and they went easily and quickly. Since it is the first day of the semester, the classes consisted of introductions and reading over the syllabi. Nothing too strenuous.

If I could judge how the semester will go based on today, then I would say that it will be easy and problem free. Unfortunately I know that not to be the case, as I will have to teach academic writing to a group of second year students–something that will be interesting but that I am not really looking forward to. Also, I have two classes on Friday afternoons that are going to be a lot of work. I taught them (well one of them, but they are the same class there just happens to be two sections this semester) last semester, and I did not enjoy them at all. They consist of running a marathon through the textbook and not stopping except for tests which are supposed to evaluate how much information the students are retaining. It is a lot of hard and intense work, and I kind of resent having to teach them.

Oh well, with jobs, like life, one must take the good with the bad.

Whatever happened with William Sparkman?

He was the part-time Census worker found dead in Kentucky earlier this month. I have been trying to find out more about the investigation, but the most recent thing I could find was this article from the Washington Post, which does not really give any new information.

Sure, it talks about how authorities have dismissed the suggestion that he was killed because of his job as a Census worker. But that means nothing. Just because they are officially denying it when they speak to the press does not mean that their denial is true and correct. Hell, they even say that to think this happened because of the man’s job is bad for the nation. So, by dismissing the suggestion they could simply be “protecting” the American people from unpleasant knowledge. This happens all the time, actually, and if you don’t think so then I ask you how many casualties from Iraq and Afghanistan have you seen on television?

Anyway, I hope that he was not killed because of his job, but I do wonder why there isn’t more focus on this investigation. Why isn’t there more pressure to find out if he was involved in his duties as a census worker at the time of his death. This is serious business, especially if it comes out that he WAS killed because of his association with the Federal government, and I for one think that there needs to be more investigative attention paid to it, from both those in law enforcement and in the media. An actual, effort filled attempt at getting to the bottom of this terrible mystery is the only way it will get resolved.

Firearms at Fundraisers: GOP candidate wastes bullets

In a previous post I commented on how America is facing a bullet shortage because the demand for firearms (and the things they fire, which are not arms by the way, though that would be sweet. Just imagine bitch-slapping someone from 300 meters) has greatly increased since Barack Obama became President.

Now there is a GoP candidate by the name of Dean Allen (in South Carolina, of course) running for Adjutant General (apparently this office controls the state’s National Guard) that is running an unorthodox campaign in which he holds fundraisers where people can pay 25 dollars for some BBQ and the chance to fire 25 rounds of ammunition from one of four assault rifles. Not to worry, though, before they are given a chance to shoot the weapon, the would be shooters must undergo ten minutes of training with the firearm to make sure that nobody gets hurt. Now ten minutes of training might not sound like a lot of time, but we have to remember that these people probably already have assault weapons of their own and know how to use them, so the ten minute training is really more of a legal formality and a refresher course for those who haven’t fired their automatic weapon in the past week.

To add to the insanity of this whole thing Allen is apparently giving away assault rifles, as indicated by a raffle for an AK-47 held at one of his recent fundraisers. I wonder if the raffle winner had to go through the usual background check/waiting period, or if the raffle allowed the winner to circumvent the law and gain possession immediately. I hope it is the former, but I would not be surprised if it were the latter. After all, anything is possible when politicians are raffling firearms at fundraisers.

Now, I have to admit that while the idea of a bunch of yokels getting together, eating BBQ and shooting off some rounds with an assault weapon is kind of funny in a “I can’t believe this is true” sense, but it is also kind of scary. I mean, can’t these people just go to the shooting range themselves? Why do they have to do this at a political function? If the adage is that we should not mix politics and religion, then maybe we should change it to read, politics and religion should not be mixed with weapons. There is just too much danger of some craziness happening.

But the story does not end with firearms at fundraisers. If that were the case it would be too simple and almost not worth writing about. What makes it even better is the reason Allen gave for holding the fundraiser at a firing range. It was to show his support of the Second Amendment (BIG Surprise there, I mean, really) which he considers to be “the most important.”

This I cannot fathom. Sure, I understand that a lot people out there still live in fear of some shadow government force coming to take them away and put them in camps while the Muslims rape all their women and destroy America, but to use that bat-shit insane paranoia to make the case that the Second Amendment is the most important right Americans have is ridiculous. The First Amendment has been, and always will be, the most important Amendment to the Constitution. It allows us to speak our minds. It allows those tea-baggers to go to town halls and shout and scream whatever they want at whomever  they want. It allowed anti-war protestors to gather and protest. It is the fabric upon which our Democratic Representative Republic is built, and paves the way for the rest of the Amendments, including the Second. Sure, some might argue that we need the Second Amendment to protect the first, and while that might be true in whatever upcoming ultimate disaster scenario that plays in their minds, the simple truth is that guns won’t save the First Amendment, but the First Amendment might be able to save guns in America?

How? you ask. Simple, by using the First Amendment, gun supporters can voice their concern and their wants to the government. Does this mean the government will listen? Of course not, but the fact remains that without the First Amendment, those supporters probably would not be able to legally voice their questions/concerns/wants/and needs. Sure, they could use guns on the police/government officials/whatever, but that would not get them very far. In fact, it would probably just get them in jail or in the ground.

But the best part of this story, for me anyway, is the fact that while America faces a bullet shortage (at home and abroad–though for the time being that crisis seems to be under control) this jack-ass, while running to be the guy that oversees the South Carolina National Guard, is busy letting folks waste ammunition 25 rounds at a time. Now, this number is not enormous by itself, but if even ten people take part in this that equals 250 bullets fired for no reason other than to fire them. I mean, if he was at least taking people hunting and they were shooting at something they could then eat it would be different. Still as waste, but not nearly as big a one. As it stands, though, Allen is just contributing the continuing bullet shortage that threatens to undermine his oh so precious Second Amendment. After all, you can have all the guns you want, but without bullets they are almost worthless.

Finally, I liked it when he said that he wanted all National Guard troops stationed abroad to come home. I thought that this was an intelligent and respectable thing to stay. The National Guard is not meant to take part in overseas actions. It is supposed to be stationed domestically and help with domestic turmoil/tragedies. My pleasure only lasted until the next sentence, though, which explained why Allen wanted the troops back: “so National Guard troops could come home and guard against undocumented immigration.”

That’s right folks, he wants our National Guard boys to come back to America, not because he cares about their lives, but because he wants to use them to make war against illegal immigration. Don’t we have the border patrol for that?

Running out of bullets

Apparently there is a bullet shortage in the United States right now, and now matter how hard they try, bullet makers just can’t keep up with the demand. When I first read this headline I was somewhat surprised–for me bullets aren’t something that I think of encountering a shortage, but then I am not a gun owner or enthusiast so this is something that I’ve never had to think about/be affected by–but then I thought about it for a moment, and came to the conclusion that of course there is a bullet shortage in the US. After all, Americans have been buying a lot of guns recently, and they need ammunition for those things.

Then I read the article, and had my hypothesis confirmed.

Now, I have nothing against people owning guns–it is their right as American citizens–but I am in favor of strict gun regulation, and I am sickened by the fact that Obama signed the bill allowing loaded weapons in National parks. Having grown up near Yosemite I can say that there are plenty of places where a gun could be fired and no one would hear it except maybe the shooter and the target. I do not mean to imply that allowing loaded guns in National parks will suddenly lead to murders in National parks, but the possibility is there (as it was there before this legislation was signed into effect) and the chances for gun violence in National parks might actually increase because now people will have loaded weapons with them as they are supposed to be out enjoying nature. Also, it could increase the instances of poaching because by definition National parks are vast stretches of land that cannot be fully patrolled–they are just too big–they are full of wildlife, and I would not put it past some hunter(s) to head out into the woods and poach their dinner. Again, this kind of thing could have happened before the legislation, but it just got a little easier.

The thing that I do have a problem with, though, is the reason why Americans are buying more guns and ammunition. Fear. Plain and simple. Fear is the only reason gun and bullet sales have increased a shit ton in the past year. And what are they afraid of? Obama and his liberal fascist allies passing anti-gun laws and stripping Americans of their rights. Now, I don’t particularly trust the government (ANY government), but I am willing to give it the benefit of the doubt. For example, since Obama has not made any move to further regulate guns it is clear to me that there is nothing to fear as far as our 2nd Amendment right goes. And what if Obama did pass anti-gun legislation? If it were to be as sweeping and all powerful as some of these folks fear, wouldn’t he make owning previously bought firearms illegal as well? And if he did that, wouldn’t all these folks have to turn in their newly purchased firearms or face becoming fugitives from the law?

And of course, if he did try to enact such legislation it would not pass, even with the Dem majority in the House and the Senate. Americans love their guns too much, and I would be willing to bet that there are enough people in both parties who would take the side of their gun loving constituents over the President. Hell, in the health care debate Senators and Representatives are taking the side of the angry crazy people who prefer shouting to discussing, and that’s just health care. For some reason, it seems to me anyway, that Americans are more concerned/care more about the right to gun ownership than providing adequate medical insurance to the nations 35 million or so uninsured.

So my point is that these people have nothing to fear. Obama is not going to squash their gun ownership rights, nor could he if he wanted because opposition in the House and Senate would be too strong. But hey, if these folks want to waste their money on firearms and bullets, who am I to say anything?

One Year Later

So today apparently marks the first year anniversary of this blog, and of me living and working in Liberec. I am pretty happy about both of these accomplishments as neither of them have been all that easy.

Writing a blog every day is difficult. First, you have to find something to talk about, and it has to be something that you really want to talk about. Sure, a blog can be used as a venue for senseless babbling (and goodness knows I have used this space for that on more than one occasion), but that should not really be the point of it. If that were the point, then I would just use my “what’s on your mind” portion on Facebook or whatever the hell Twitter calls it (I don’t use twitter and I don’t ever plan to). So, not only does it have to be something that one really wants to talk about, it also has to be something people might be interested in reading. Again, they do not have to be interested in it, but it surely helps to believe that at least a few people care what you have to say. If this isn’t the case then there is no point in maintaining a blog, and a would be blogger should just keep a journal under the bed where all those silly and babbling thoughts can be stored and not shared. My point, I guess, is that I don’t feel people should blog unless they have something interesting to say in a passionate manner.

This blog, I think, has only been somewhat successful this far into its existence. Despite wanting to post every day, there have been weeks at a time where no new post has shown up here, and despite some of the words in the preceeding paragraph I often do not feel that what I am talking about is very interesting, and that leads to a dispassionate disconnect between me and the words I am posting. I am going to try and worker harder at these two issues. I will attempt to post more so that I will have 365 posts for the September 23rd, 2009-September 22nd, 2010 period. It will be difficult and I do not know how likely I am to reach this goal, but it is something to strive for and when I succeed I will be able to say that I set this goal and met it. Of course, this means that a lot of those posts will probably end up being silly fillers to help me reach my goal, but I will try not to pull that trick too many times. I want to have and say things of substance, and I will focus my energies on doing just that.

Life in Liberec has also been difficult at times. It is a nice small city (100,000 people) surrounded by mountains and with an excellent public transportation system. It has all the modern accouterments of most modern day cities–cinema, shopping centers (lots of these), swimming pools, strip clubs, dance clubs, bars (lots of these too), a museum, a zoo, botanical gardens–and is surrounded by mountain, making it a nice multi-purpose city. You can be in downtown Liberec at 13:00 and then by 14:30 you can be at the top of Jested, near the circular tv station turned restaurant/hotel looking out on the Czech landscape. It is quite amazing.

However, life is not all supermarkets and mountains here. Not being able to speak the language (and really having no one but myself to blame because I have not made any effort to try) gets to me sometimes. Sure, I can communicate well enough to order food and beer at pubs, and to go grocery shopping, but that is really it. When I want to have a conversation I have to hang out with my English speaking co-workers (or go to Prague, or wait until my sister or my father calls me from America). Now don’t get me wrong, I like my colleagues. They are fine people and we get along well enough, but they are really the only people I have to hang out with and that just gets old. I mean it is not as if our respective lives are so interesting that they can propel us through 2-3 hour long conversations three or four times a week. Also, they’re all dudes, so I rarely get a chance to hang out with ladies, which is lame because in most cases I prefer being surrounded by the lassies more than I do the lads. But as I am fond of saying–everyday in Liberec is a challenge and an adventure. And I really wouldn’t have it any other way.

Because of this I often feel alone (even when I am surrounded by people that I can talk to and be friends with). It has been over a year since I came to the Czech Republic and in that time I have had some fun and not so fun adventures, but I am glad that I came here and I am glad that I decided to stay for another year. And what about next year? I don’t know yet; it is too early to start thinking about that right now. After all, school hasn’t even started yet, and I need to base my decision of whether or not to stay on this year’s work experience (at least in part), plus when school starts again I will be taking Czech lessons here at the university, and if I can actually learn some stuff then I might be further encouraged to stay here longer.

That is all for now, and thanks to those that read this messy blog.