Monday, July 20, 2009

The Journal Days

Over the next three weeks I will be traveling on a remarkable vacation through the Mediterranean. The trip itself will serve as one long celebratory bash for my mother's birthday, my 21st birthday and my parent's anniversary.

The only really big decision then comes in how to document the events.

The first notable device to perform these actions is the Canon Rebel XSi I purchased last week (it should arrive in VA on Wednesday [this is me... excited]).

I decided on it over the Nikon alternatives after some pretty thorough consultation with my photographer colleagues at the Technician (my newspaper). As far as their concerns, Nikon provides the better kit lens, but Canon has less expensive and a larger range of compatible lenses.

Additionally, I was able to find a superior deal on a Rebel XSi (an upgrade over the XS and a much better camera than the Nikon D60).

Taken together, the choice of my XSi for about $600 was a really good deal.

So, I will be doing a lot of photo documentation on my trip (see below). Pending training by said photographers*

In addition to visually documenting my trip, one of my old professors made an interesting proposition. He recommended that I buy a nice journal before I go and jot down some notes every night before I retire to bed.

I think this is a brilliant idea. Not that I am trying to supplant this blog. But, in honesty, I have not kept up with it that well since Christmas and I'm not even sure I'm going to take my computer on the trip.

Regardless of the capacity to write in the blog, I think I would keep up with a physical journal much better. If nothing else, it will serve as a record that I can read in 20 years to see how I used to write.

Not as much in the sense of content, my newspaper work has shown me that I have the ability to write effectively, but I want a way to capture the way in which I experience the trip (a sort of introspection... maybe).

In any case, I am excited about the trip (it begins this Sunday with a flight to Rome). More will be posted later this week.

My last three technician articles

The stench is back

Russell Witham, Viewpoint Editor

Can you smell it in the air?

No? Perhaps you took too much Zicam and are suffering from anosmia (loss of smell). If so, I envy you. This place stinks.

Budget cuts, Nielsen and JLO's rotting corpses, Mary Easley and the inevitable start of "mulching season;" we're starting to sound like the Cuyahoga river (see dictionary: something that was burned more than Mary Easley's reputation).

But don't worry -- things are looking up. The University is only being asked to relinquish 10 percent of its state funding. What a great relief, we're only out $53 million. But hold on a second. $53 million dollars is more than the total endowment of Peace College, UNC-Wilmington and High Point University.

How will we ever recover from this?

I've got it. Let's hire Joe Jackson to do our public relations -- no one can dance on a dead person's parade like he can.

Better yet, why don't we just get down to business and make these cuts? All we'd have to do is hire 400 or so auditors to evaluate the elimination of 300 administrators. That way we could have an extra hundred staff members on campus next year to rationalize why the positions that were eradicated failed to serve "core academic units." We could call them executives-in-residence.

I'm not sure I even know what a core academic unit is. Oh wait, it must be those thrifty First Year College and New Student Orientation programs.

This is the same NSO that successfully increased its spending this year while on a mission to cut costs, and this is the same FYC program that claims "to promote both self-discovery and awareness of others through assignments, class activities and advising sessions."

Those sound like activities that should be accomplished during some personal time with a hooker and a psychologist (hopefully they aren't one in the same).

Heck, the University already sponsors shrinks. Why don't we step it up to the next level and turn that brand new FYC building into the "Bureau of Self-Discovery?" I guarantee costs would go down and approval ratings would go through the roof.

Don't fret. We aren't the only one in ruins. Chapel Hill is joining us with a $60 million cut of its own. I reckon it'll be hurtin' mightily when its endowment is reduced to a paltry $2.3 billion -- perhaps the students will only be able to hold celebratory bonfires on Franklin Street once a year instead of the usual two or three times.

It's not that we're bitter. We're not resentful at all that Chancellor Thorp and Chapel Hill's other administrators spend their time procuring grants instead of flying around on McQueen Campbell's private jet -- ahem, Oblinger.

This campus is definitely headed in the right direction, right through the pothole of innovation and straight into a set of road spikes. On the bright side, the 10-percent cut might reduce some of this year's mulching budget.

Still, things could be worse. We could be in California.

Then again, at least we'd have clean air and a macho leader.

*For the blog readers*

Former Chancellor (JLO) James L. Oblinger resigned from service at N.C. State this summer following federal allegations of impropriety in the hiring and subsequent raises given to former first lady Mary Easley (gubernatorial).


I'm coming out

Russell Witham, Viewpoint Editor

For years now, I have been afraid to talk about my burden in public. I've lived in constant fear that around every corner one of Al Gore's hooded cronies would be there to beat me with the tire iron of environmentalism.

But in the shadow of an 18-percent budget cut and unparalleled corruption within the University, I think I can actually fly under the radar and sneak my self-righteous beliefs past you.

And so the time has come, today I'm going to do it. I feel safe enough to come out of the closet and declare that I don't believe in the Global Warming fraud.

Now before you reach for the ground and pick up a stone, let me clarify my position. I am against the media propagation of the scientifically unproven ills of climate change.

The planet is getting warmer in certain locations -- any chimp with a thermometer can figure that out. What I want, what I feel the American populous deserves, is to receive unbiased and fair coverage of a recent and evolving issue.

In a perceptive expose in The New York Times Magazine, Nicholas Dawidoff wrote about the scientific views of the renowned physicist and mathematician Freeman Dyson.

Dyson made much of his fame as a researcher in quantum field theory and other advanced physics -- notably through his work on unifying quantum and electrodynamic theory.

In later life he has delved deeply into all modes of science and public policy.

Despite a lifetime of groundbreaking and historic contributions, he is now being ridiculed as a heretic for denying many of the dangers of global warming.

James Hansen, the head of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, and Al Gore have relied so much on models and atmospheric physics that they fail to address basic biology. The question we should be asking is: why is global warming bad?

In "An Inconvenient Truth," Gore seems to enjoy relishing in the melting snows of Kilimanjaro, the thawing Peruvian glaciers and the devastation of Hurricane Katrina.

Gore is great at showing off his whiz-bang charts but fails to ponder if more carbon dioxide and warmth will destroy the world's eco-systems or simply make the Earth warmer (since when was warmth a bad thing, Florida sure does seem to get some love.)

Glaciers have receded and grown for millions of years, for us to think we have the power or the right to stop them the way they are today is illogical.

Basic biology teaches us that carbon dioxide is fundamental for the life cycles of most of the vegetation on this planet. Why then would it be heretical to query that a warmer climate and higher levels of carbon dioxide would lead to increased vegetation, as Dyson has?

I'm not saying that global warming is good, nor am I saying that we should send excess carbon dioxide into the atmosphere to save the planet. But the media has no right to dictate either way.

In the words of the great Malcolm X, "The media's the most powerful entity on earth. They have the power to make the innocent guilty and to make the guilty innocent, and that's power. Because they control the minds of the masses."

The media has declared war on free thinkers like Freeman Dyson, exerting populist rage over the death of polar bears and the rising oceans.

Perhaps we as a society should demand that the media stop telling us about the impending doom of a real life "Waterworld" and instead address why so many in our own nation are homeless and without insurance during this recession.


The education phenomenon

Russell Witham, Senior Staff Columnist

Since before I could walk, I have spent my summers in Swansboro, N.C. The slow pace of the town and the warmth of its residents were an indelible part of my childhood. Despite spending nearly a third of my life in this state, my home (according to the IRS) is in Annandale, VA. This means I have to pay $12,475 more per year to attend the University than a North Carolina resident does.

While I do feel as though I should have some sort of claim to “in-state” tuition, I grudgingly pay my $18,000 per year because this was a choice I made. A choice for “innovation,” one might say.

I could have gone to one of the many great colleges in Virginia, but I decided N.C. State was right for me (we’ll go ahead and ignore the fact that I didn’t get accepted to those great Virginia schools).

But is there any difference between my experience and that of an illegal immigrant — aside from the not having to jump across fences and deserts to get home?

We both unofficially live in the state of North Carolina and neither of us writes a check each year to Gov. Bev Perdue.

And that is why neither me nor any of the illegal immigrants in this country deserve in-state tuition.

While we all must pay taxes on basic consumption items, these dues come nowhere close to the level of income tax paid by residents of this state.

That income tax fuels the North Carolina general fund, which in turn funds 46 percent of our education at the University — tuition itself only pays for 15 percent.

The extra money I pay to go to the University is nothing more than an adjustment for the fact that I didn’t contribute to the 46 percent. So in reality, we all are paying the same amount to go to this school, the funds simply come in through different revenue streams.

If illegal immigrants are granted in-state tuition in North Carolina, as is currently the case in 10 states, N.C. tax payers will in effect be subsidizing the cost of college education for illegal immigrants.

Legal North Carolinians already pay for secondary education and health care for illegal aliens. Why don’t they start paying for college education as well?

On second thought, it does seem awfully American to pay for foreigners’ benefits when there are jobless and hungry citizens of our own country who are hanging on for dear life during this recession.

Perhaps these facts are why I found those protesters at UNC-Chapel Hill last week to be so moronic.

As much as I love a good protest, perhaps this is the French side of me — the demonstrators at UNC failed to understand where education funding comes from.

Illegal immigrants shouldn’t receive in-state tuition because they haven’t paid for it, the same way in which I haven’t paid for it.

Still though, it would be nice for a few more handouts from President Barack Obama. So here’s to hoping he bails me out. My lack of funds almost constitutes a bank of its own.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Getting Fired

So today was an interesting experience.. maybe the title is a giveaway, but I got fired.

O.K., maybe that is being a little dramatic. But I'll let you decide..

The Technician's budget meeting, where the editorial staff decides its content for the day happens at 3:30. For whatever reason, despite the fact that I have been listed as the writer of the editorial for the last two weeks and have been helping edit for almost a month now I was not listed on our "budget."

I thought this was kind of odd, but didn't really put too much thought into it. Things became clear about 15 minutes after the meeting ended when I was called into the Editor-in-Chief's office by the Viewpoint Editor, Jane.

Jane and Saja then informed me that they thought I should work on my writing and interviewing skills more. In reality, what they really decided was that they chose someone else.

This was after they had told me that the admission process was just a formality.

I feel slightly bruised by it all, but maybe it is for the best. I am busy and stressed almost constantly and perhaps it is a good thing to take something off my plate... at least for this semester.

I still have my weekly column, but it seems that for now, my days of editing are over.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Day 1

I should be working on two article rewrites for my Eng 417 class right now. But I feel exceptionally lazy as I sit here listening to Death Cab for Cutie; so today I'm going to try something new. Feedback would be nice...

This may constitute starting a new blog, I don't know yet (basically I'll have to see how pathetic it is), but I want to try a new concept which hopefully will get me on here every night... despite my work load.

Short paragraphs of my daily random thoughts that I for the most part cannot put in my articles bc they are rhetorical questions.

Here goes nothing.


When was the last time you were kissed? Do you remember what it felt like? Were his or her lips soft, moist, a combination of the two? How did you feel ten minutes later? How did you feel ten minutes before? Was your chest thumping? Was it love, emotion, pure physicality, or are they even distinct?

Wouldn't you like to know...

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Thinking Movies

I generally don't talk about very personal things in my blog.

For starters, it makes me very uncomfortable to tell personal things to anyone, even my own family. No less, divulge the privileged for anyone to read.

Sometimes though, I will admit, it is a good idea to let some things go instead of letting them stew within your own mind.

This evening, my father and I went to see Slumdog Millionaire at the venerable Cinema Arts in Fairfax, VA.

I thought the movie was a little over-hyped after the Academy Awards, but nonetheless, it was very good and well worth the price of a ticket.

If you have seen the movie, the main setting is no secret, but if you haven't -- the film is set (maybe this is obvious) in the slums of Mumbai (Bombay).

I thought little of it. But as I was leaving the theater I noticed that my Dad was being unusually silent.

Not that my father is ever particularly loud, but he was being particularly quiet.

As a point of understanding I should note the relationship my father and I generally share and the prevailing unusual circumstances. For the most part, my Dad and I act more like good friends than father son. I'm not saying there is any loss of love, but we do not have a very informative relationship. Speaking generally, less is more and no news is good news. This is perhaps more a sign of our introverted natures than anything else, but in any case, emotional feelings are not something we typically share.

This week though, my grandfather (my Dad's father) developed a horrible blood clot in an artery in his leg. Thankfully, he is in stable condition and his leg tissue is still alive, but it seems he will never walk the same again. While I had not noticed any prior signs of it weighing on my dad, it showed tonight.

When in the car on the ride home, my Dad said that he thought it was good but it made him uncomfortable. When I asked why, he said that he got flashbacks of the desert. He said that when he was in the Middle East he saw some atrocious living conditions, things which the sight of the movies slums brought back to him. It was interesting, as it was the first time in 6 years my Dad had talked about anything from his time in Iraq.

I still have never asked about what he did, apart from where he was, the classified version of which he has never been able to tell.

In any case, I thought it was very unusual that it was a movie that gave my Dad an opportunity to open up to me (even in a little way). The power of art perhaps..

Saturday, February 28, 2009

My sore bum

My first experience skiing was well... painful.

I'm pretty confident that every single muscle in my legs and back are sore, and yes I spent a lot of the morning on my bum.

But surprisingly, or maybe not so surprisingly (I'll leave that one to you), I was alright at it by the afternoon. In the evening, despite being pretty tired, I was actually not half bad. Can I go down a black diamond.. no.. But I can now glide down a green slope pretty easily.. Attaining some decent speed? Yes.

With that I'll take a little pride.. And despite being sore, it was a lot of fun. Definitely a do again.

As to flying. I ended up not going today, the ceiling came down too low and instead I'm going to be doing it tomorrow morning. We'll see how that goes.. : )

But tonight, I am absolutely exhausted and don't have too much else to say. See you later alligators..

Friday, February 27, 2009

Break.. oddities..

For the first time in what seems like a month, I have a little bit of free time on my hands.

Therefore I feel obliged to reacquaint myself with the art of blogging.

Perhaps, over this next week I can post more than once or twice. That would be pretty darn sweet.


This Sunday, Nick (roommate) thought he would play a joke on me and pushed a couch in front of me. Instead of tripping me up like he intended, the base of the couch slid into my big toe and took off the entirety of the nail on my big toe. Besides missing the nail (merely a minor annoyance), the toe has caused me a lot of pain this week and has made it very difficult to move about normally. Oh well.. life is life. And it is getting better, well enough in fact that I am currently at Wisp, MD, attempting to ski for the first time in my life.

I am now editing one night a week at the Technician. Mostly this just involves eating lots of free popcorn and copy editing my section. The only real challenge is writing the unsigned editorial I don't believe in. Unlike regular columns where I have artistic freedom, I am forced into writing the opinion of the editorial board. Which means rewriting the "edit" five or six times until I've made it sufficiently neutral and bland. blah...

I'm on Spring Break right now through next weekend. Originally I was just going to go down to Florida for a couple days in addition to hanging out at home.

But somehow, the break has rapidly evolved. Late this week, my mother (in the midst of a mid-life crisis) decided that she hadn't been skiing in a long time. In reality, its at least 20 years since we've never been in my lifetime.

Regardless, of the physical ailments we are all struggling with right now.. dad - back, mom - knee, me - cold + toe. We are spending the weekend in Wisp, MD and getting a crash course in skiing. (To me, this simply means I will spend a lot of the weekend on my ass, but it seems like it will be fun).

The super cool thing that developed this evening... tomorrow I will be flying a multi-million dollar stunt airplane. Long story short, my Dad (totally randomly) ran into an old friend of his while we were at dinner. He used to fly at American with my Dad and my Dad helped his son get hired at the D.C. Air National Guard. After a couple beers, he asked if I flew like my daddy. I told him that I had never been behind the stick. His response, thats no good son, why don't we fix that tomorrow afternoon.

So tomorrow, after a day of skiing, I will be up in the skies above Maryland doing flips and barrel rolls. And then, this Wed I will be going down to Naples, FL with my grandparents to work on my tan.

I would say this break is shaping up nicely.

Updates will ensue.

And, for those that would like more..
My last two articles from the Technician.. Personally I think they are two of the best I have written thus far.

The first, a satirical letter from Obama, here.

And the second, which oddly is not the exact same as the print version. It would seem as though a copy editor got to this one, making some bad edits in my opinion. But in any case, it keeps with the spirit of the real one, so I'll post it here.