Saturday, March 31, 2012

Rock On... Kony 2012

The main issue I have in watching Kony2012 is that Joseph Kony's actions have gone on for far too long to adequately condense in a 30 minute film without A) generalizing very complex issues and B) making the film more about the director's campaign than about what Kony has done.

For instance, in regards to point A, Russell refers to Kony's army as the LRA. What Russell doesn't say is that the LRA stands for the Lord's Resistance Army, a Christian fundamentalist group led by Kony to establish a theocracy and rule under the Ten Commandments. Russell completely leaves the religious aspect out of Kony's regime, and that concerns me because, while I don't condone Kony's actions with or without God's help, Kony believes he is doing the Lord's work. Whether one is religious or not, it's easy to excuse someone's behavior if they say it's all a part of God's will or whoever they believe in because it's something we can't fully judge without walking a mile in their shoes. Perhaps that is why Kony has gone under the radar for so long.

As for point B, thirty minutes is simply not enough time to fully understand who Joseph Kony is from an objective standpoint. This works to Russell's favor because not only can he cherry-pick what he wants his audience to see, but in how he wants to present these images. Kony2012 is not fully about Joseph Kony, as seen in the home movies of Russell, his son, and in other shots urging people to make Kony famous. In fact, as the film progresses, the fight to take down Kony becomes more of a social outpouring about awareness of who is Kony rather than what he's done. "Make him famous" is the mantra I recall. And if there's one thing to be said about making an impact, you can only talk for so long before action is demanded. Russell has done a lot of talking, and he's banking on millions of people making Kony famous. But unless they've research Kony's atrocities fairly well, all this film will be is an over-exploited attempt that's had it's thirty minutes of fame in March 2012 before dying out with all the other emotionally-charged causes urging to take a stand or else.

Picture of Kony 2012 poster courtesy of

The Dubious Nature of Timothy Treadwell

If you ever get a chance to watch Grizzly Man, see it if for any other reason because you will encounter one of the most polarizing central figures ever caught on film in Timothy Treadwell. After watching the film for a class earlier in the month, there is part of me that lauds Treadwell's efforts in making peace with the bears in the Alaskan wilderness. However, as the film progresses, I am equally disturbed by his anti-social behavior. His profanity laden tirades near the end practically negate all the good he thinks he's doing. It's one thing to care for certain animals and give them an opportunity to be seen from a more intimate angle, but to go out and blame other people (and God) for not caring enough defeats the purpose of his expeditions. Whether he likes it or not, he's still a human being who needs human interaction. And like the sun rising in the East and setting in the West, it surprises me none that he was mauled to death by a bear. I knew it the moment I saw his years of birth and death at the beginning of the movie. What does surprise me is that through it all, the service and the gradual loss of sanity, he lasted for thirteen summers of living amongst these bears. Just one summer is enough adventure for a lifetime. To go back twelve additional years speaks to the dedication of the human will when fully committed to a task.

Picture of Timothy Treadwell courtesy of MSNBC

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Method Behind My March Madness 2012

Due to my being away in Orlando for the past few days without an Internet connection, I'll keep my post about this year's March Madness tournament brief.

With the release of the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament bracket this past Sunday, everyone's got their picks for who'll be the last ones dancing on the court April 2. From the experts at ESPN to practically any office pool, there are 147,573,952,589,676,412,928 possible combinations of filling out a unique bracket between 68 teams. Whether you play it competitively or just for kicks, there's bound to be some measure you take in deciding who'll advance how far, who'll be upset, who'll be this year's Cinderella story, and who'll cut down the nets in New Orleans at the end.

Last year, I gave a detailed account behind my picks and who I saw going where and how far. Obviously, picking against Butler and VCU in their first game of the NCAA Tournament didn't bode well for me. Heck, I didn't think VCU would get out of the play-in game, much less all the way to the Final Four. However, I at least had the foresight to see eventual champion UConn into the Final Four, and I correctly predicted a few upsets, including Richmond (12) over Vanderbilt (5) and Florida State (10) over Texas A&M (7) in the "second" round.

This year, I hope to improve upon my NCAA Tournament selections. My full bracket is available down below, and this year, in higher quality! Long story short, I pick Kentucky, Ohio State, Missouri, and North Carolina to go to this year's Final Four. I like Kentucky and North Carolina to play in the championship game, and I see Kentucky winning it all 63-59, and finally giving head coach John Calipari his first Division I title.

Let's make it happen!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Beginning Of The End (Fiction)

The last meaningful baseball game I played was back in 2003. I was an 11-year old third baseman for my team, the Rangers, which compiled a 14-2-2 record throughout the regular season and cruised into the playoffs. After a dramatic semifinal victory over the Angels, we played against the Rockies in the championship game for my city's Little League organization. Had all gone according to plan, this game would've been the beginning of a bright future in baseball for me. In retrospect, it was the beginning of the end.

I was set to play the game of my life, but I couldn't even last a single inning. In my first at bat, I hit a screaming line drive over the center fielder's head for an easy stand-up double. As I was rounding first base, I twisted my right ankle. I hobbled back to first base after making the turn, even though the center fielder hadn't reached the ball. The pain was too much. Fortunately, I was stranded on first base when the top half of that inning ended, and I was swiftly replaced in the lineup.

For the rest of that game, I helplessly watched from the dugout as my team valiantly competed. Here I was, the team's best hitter, sitting on a wooden bench with an ice pack around my right ankle. Adrenaline helped to dull the pain, but I couldn't walk without limping, much less run. Still, I cheered my teammates on, knowing that it was all I could do. I stopped cheering in the final inning, when a teammate threw a wild pitch to score the winning run for the opposing team. Watching them celebrate and donning championship gear was like a dagger through my heart. I was able to keep my composure long enough to join in a post-game hand shake, but I bawled my eyes out when I got to my parents. When I returned home, I vowed never to like anything related to the Rockies, and I cried myself to sleep.

If I were a spectator watching that game, with a close eye on my younger self, I'd see a pudgy boy who inadvertently matured in front of a group of strangers. He initially was in over his head, trying to do too much in a game where team effort wins out in the end. Watching him at first base with his head down and hands on his knees, wincing in pain, served as an unfortunate reminder that the mind and the body don't always operate in synchronicity. But my perception of him would change as the game wore on. He didn't sulk, he didn't pout, and he didn't shut up. He encouraged his teammates to fight on, even when all hope seemed lost near the end. In a way, it's better than he lost because he showed a lot of character in a time of adversity. That deserves more recognition than any postseason banner.

As for the game itself, it was just a game my younger self believed was life or death. What I should've realized is that sports, much like life, can be real humbling real quick. The following year, I played my final season of Little League baseball. It was an ignominious ending as my team, the Cardinals, went a paltry 3-15. I converted into a pitcher, went 2-7 as the staff ace, and the only reason I had any success on the mound was because I intimidated most of the kids on the opposing teams with my size. My hitting statistics dropped substantially and, after a year of bench warming in junior varsity baseball as a high school freshman, I gave up my aspiration to be a professional athlete. That was in 2006, and the following year, I found myself cheering for the upstart Colorado Rockies in the World Series. It's been an interesting turnaround since that championship game, but looking back, I'm glad me and my team lost. It refocused my priorities, reminded me to be meek, and put others before self. Those principles I learned on that diamond many years ago have proven more valuable in my life than any natural diamond on Earth.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Happy Leap Day!

What a peculiar day February 29 is. I mean, why is an extra day added to the end of February, and not in, say, April or September? It's just very arbitrary.

But I guess the more important question to ask is why is an extra day necessary? For that, the answer is pretty straight-forward. Over the course of four seasons (autumn, winter, spring, and summer), they last for 365 days, 5 hours, 49 minutes, and 16 seconds, which as you can infer, is a tad over one full calendar year. But if you pay attention, that extra time is enough to keep all the four seasons out of sync if something isn't done to rectify the situation. If a typical calendar year stays fixed at 365 days, then after 30 years, all the seasons would be a week off. And after 100 years, they'd all be off by a month. Can you just imagine if summer took place in October? Me neither.

So who proposed a 366th day as a quadrennial occurrence? Thank Sosigenes of Alexandria. In the first century B.C., Roman emperor Julius Caesar wanted to do away with multiple calendars that had little continuity. He enlisted Sosigenes, a Greek astronomer, to help devise the Julian calendar, a predecessor to the Gregorian calendar we use today. (In case you didn't notice, July was named after Caesar, as well.) It was Sosigenes who insisted that an extra day be added once every four years to keep the calendar in line with the seasons. Caesar obliged, the Julian calendar came into effect in 45 B.C., and the rest, as they say, is history.

February 29 is truly odd because of an uncertainty about how people born on that day celebrate their birthday. In non-leap years, those whose birthdays don't "exist" can choose to celebrate the day before, February 28, or the day after, March 1. It depends on where one lives, though.

But don't fret. Several famous people were also born on February 29. Among others, they include Pope Paul III, motivational speaker Tony Robbins, NHL goalie Cam Ward, and Philadelphian typesetter Adolph Blaine Charles David Earl Frederick Gerald Hubert Irvin John Kenneth Lloyd Martin Nero Oliver Paul Quincy Randolph Sherman Thomas Uncas Victor William Xerxes Yancy Zeus Wolfe­schlegelstein­hausenberger­dorffvoraltern­waren­gewissenhaft­schaferswessen­schafewaren­wohlgepflege­und­sorgfaltigkeit­beschutzen­von­angreifen­durch­ihrraubgierigfeinde­welche­voraltern­zwolftausend­jahres­vorandieerscheinen­wander­ersteer­dem­enschderraumschiff­gebrauchlicht­als­sein­ursprung­von­kraftgestart­sein­lange­fahrt­hinzwischen­sternartigraum­auf­der­suchenach­diestern­welche­gehabt­bewohnbar­planeten­kreise­drehen­sich­und­wohin­der­neurasse­von­verstandigmen­schlichkeit­konnte­fortplanzen­und­sicher­freuen­anlebens­langlich­freude­und­ruhe­mit­nicht­ein­furcht­vor­angreifen­von­anderer­intelligent­geschopfs­von­hinzwischen­sternartigraum, Senior. Seriously. And it hasn't deterred them the least bit.

Well... unless you're a pirate apprentice.

Picture of leap frogs courtesy of

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Florida State Senator J.D. Alexander Doesn't Care About USF Polytechnic

When a term-limited politician known more for being a bully than an ambassador in the public eye steps up against higher education, it would seem reasonable that his fight is a ludicrous attempt to go out of office swinging.

But what if he hit for the fences and scored, too?

Such is the possibility surrounding J.D. Alexander (seen left), a Florida State Senator from Lake Wales in Polk County. The Republican's latest political move may be his boldest yet, in which he wants the University of South Florida's (USF) Polytechnic campus in Lakeland to split into it's own separate, accredited institution by as soon as July 1, 2012. Never mind that such a split would leave thousands of students and faculty out to dry, and that accreditation through the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools normally takes anywhere from three to five years.

This is one man's vain vision to leave a lasting impression before he leaves office. And what better way to do that than by forming a new university that goes against everything his constituents want?

Initially, the issue was whether or not the Polytechnic campus should sever it's ties to USF so soon. USF Poly, as it's shorthanded in the media, was founded as the latest USF school in 1988. The school changed its name from USF Lakeland to reflect an adopted polytechnic model of education in 2008. Less than four years later, in November 2011, it was decided that while a split was a necessary step in the right direction to become Florida Polytechnic University in the future, several guidelines had to be achieved, which are expected to take several years. USF was also put in charge of guiding it's Polytechnic campus through the process of independence.

At best, the changes wouldn't take full effect until the current student body had a sufficient amount of time to graduate under USF Poly. At worst, those caught in-between the transition would be grandfathered into the USF system, ultimately allowing students to retain an alumni status with USF. Either way, it appeared to be a compromise worth agreeing upon.

But now, less than four months later, it's evidently clear Senator Alexander is using his political clout to get what he wants. And what does he want? To pull the rug out from underneath those whose future depends on USF Poly.

He blames USF for not doing enough to see this transition through, going so far as to say he's "lost confidence in USF's leadership." In retaliation, Senator Alexander, who's also the head of the Senate Budget Committee, proposed up to $108 million in cuts to USF which, among others, would eliminate all funding to USF Poly. The irony of it all is that he helped fund tens of millions of dollars to USF Poly for a new, high-tech campus alongside Interstate 4. But that was years ago. Today, he's taking a personal vendetta against a school he helped build.

What makes a split of USF Poly so acrimonious is that the institution serves a unique demographic. As of the 2010-2011 school year, the average student is 29 years old, and a majority (61%) go to the school part-time. One of the main reasons so many go to USF Poly in the first place is because the location is more convenient than driving to and from Tampa (where USF's flagship university is located) on a regular basis. The campus also has it's own unique program requirements, from majors in IT and industrial engineering to Bachelor of Science in Applied Science degrees, exclusive to USF Poly. If this school splits before the year is up, many students will face one of three options: stay with USF and either drive or relocate to Tampa, enroll at another university with no guarantee all their credits will be retained, or quit going to school altogether.

It's equally acrimonious because Senator Alexander's demand to split soon or else came so abruptly, it caught practically everyone involved off-guard. At the beginning of February 2012, there was no indication that the immediate fate of USF Poly would hang on the whim of a state Senator from a small town in central Florida. Students learned, professors taught, and administrators led under the assumption they still had time to acquiesce this transition.

But now more than ever, the people of USF Poly must object to Senator Alexander's plan and stand up to other influential leaders and politicians in the state of Florida as a united institution. Because if they don't, one man will get his way and leave thousands more disillusioned by the American higher educational system today.

Picture of JD Alexander courtesy of the Florida Senate
Picture of USF Poly campus courtesy of Rodda Construction, Inc.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Reddit Does Not Care For Wilson Phillips: Inside The Cutthroat World Of A Social News Website

It's unequivocally clear in today's social media driven age, especially among the Millennial generation, that people can pick and choose the stories they want to see. No longer is it necessary to sift through a newspaper to find an article of interest or watch an hour long newscast just to find out what the big teaser was at the beginning of the show. Everything's only a click away, and this now includes the way people can judge what will be the top stories on the Internet.

So marks the intrigue behind social news websites, where an online community of members can upload their own content, whether original or shared, and rank it's position within the site. Good posts tend to get some positive feedback, great posts typically invite a lot of overall feedback, and bad posts are either ignored or given negative votes to bury it's lack of originality. Many times, the big "stories" of the day are either funny, outrageous, random, thought-provoking, or a combination thereof.

Several such websites exist, such as Digg, Slashdot, and Newsvine, but my focus today is on Reddit. For you noobs, Reddit (pronounced read-it) is known for it's slogan of being "the front page of the internet." Registered users are called redditors (with the average age surprisingly between 35-44), and different categories are known as subreddits. As a redditor myself, I primarily use Reddit to invite more traffic for my blog, though I have recently become more active by uploading other links of interest and commenting on others' posts.

Well, once upon a time, I uploaded a link through todayilearned, a subreddit where users can share interesting tidbits of information they recently found out. Long story, I was on the Wikipedia page for actor William Baldwin when I found out he married one of the singers from Wilson Phillips in the mid-1990s. That, believe it or not, was the first time I thought of Wilson Phillips as someone other than a male country singer. When I clicked on the corresponding page, lo and behold, I discovered Wilson Phillips was actually an American, all-female singing trio. And after listening to a snippet of their Billboard #1 hit single "Hold On", I decided to share my latest bit of newfound knowledge to the Reddit community.

And how did they respond? One person commented, "Ok. And what?," while another said, "Who did you think it was all this time?" Apparently, they must've had to endure Wilson Phillips on the radio to near-death in the early 1990s and are trying to keep them in the repressed memories category of their conscience. (Don't even think about looking, I've since deleted the link in all of it's notoriety.)

But the Wilson Phillips flop is but one of many daily examples of posts that flounder shortly after uploading. It's almost impossible to say what will make the front page of Reddit on any given day. The only hope of making it to the top is several hundred to a few thousand people liking what the original poster liked.

And that's another problem. I know when I upload something most of the time, it's either going to be read once at best or ignored altogether at worst because I don't think like most redditors out there. Ergo, the odds are stacked even more against me in my quest to deliver front page material. This is not to say it's an impossible task, but I think the Chicago Cubs have a better chance of winning the World Series over the next one hundred years than I ever will making the front page on Reddit in that same time. Microscopic odds, indeed.

Now, don't get me wrong. I also happen to think Reddit is the number one resource to stay current on news-worthy information today and for the future. And without it, I wouldn't have had a fraction of the page views to my blog already. So for what Reddit is worth, it's a double edged sword that can cut either way in the hopes of influencing a global audience with the next Internet sensation.

Just make sure to keep Wilson Phillips out of the conversation.

TL;DR - Uploading top-rated content on social news websites takes more luck than skill.

Original album cover courtesy of
Reddit logo courtesy of