Saturday, May 5, 2007

A Great Learning Experience

I have always felt that writing wasn't my strongest suit. My mother always said that I was a good writer, but I felt part of that was just encouragement for me. In taking this class I have been able to realize some of the problems I have with writing, and been able to improve on them slightly. I also feel that my attitude, and approach to writing has changed quite a bit too.

One problem I've always had, and still do, is organizing my thoughts. I tend to jump around a lot in my writing. An example of this, from some of my earlier writing is as follows:
"The main tool bar lets you search by ailment. There is also a search bar to just type in what you're looking for. And, like other websites, it has hyperlinks to different areas; and a subtle background to make it easier to read. Also, it has a lot of ads, and who can have a website with out ads?" (A Well Rounded Website) This is a lot of information to cram into four sentences. I didn't take much time to explain one point before I jumped to my next thought. This can lead to much confusion in the reader.

I do feel that I still have some trouble with organizing my thoughts, but it has improved a lot since the beginning of the semester. My last writing is a good example of my improved organization:"This cartoon uses both images and words to push this point. There are many ways that words alone emphasize the author's point. The most obvious is the title: "Today's Random Medical News". This tells you that the author feels that the medical news being released is basically pulled out of a hat. The subtitle on the right-hand side is a use of symbolism and parody. It is making fun of The New England Journal of Medicine, a prominent journal of new findings in the medical field that is commonly used as a reference for medical reports in the news today. The subtitle states that it is a journal of "panic-inducing goobledy-gook." Without the proper medical training that is exactly what it can be." (The Trouble with the News and Medicine) In this example you can see how each idea is thoroughly explained before I jump to the next point. I feel this makes it much easier for the reader to understand and follow.

Another problem I realized that I had was my choice of words. I tend to write how I speak, and depending on the audience, you could use a lot of credibility in doing this.
"Yesterday I took my friend to the Fish Den to get some new fish for her 55-gallon tank. One of the fish she got is one of the coolest fish I've seen. It is a rope fish, erpetoichthys calabaricus, a fresh water fish from Africa. It looks like a cross between an eel and a snake." (The Rope Fish)In this example I use the word "coolest", which is more of a childish word. In looking back I feel that I could have used a more refined word in it's place. I also used the analogy of " a cross between an eel and a snake." I feel that if I wrote this now I would put more time in describing the real animal, rather than just associating it with other animals. In later posts I found myself using a much better choice of words, and more description. For example: "But when you look closer you see that the woman is holding her stomach, and leaning over a toilet bowl. Also the vertebrae in her back are very pronounced, and some of her ribs are showing; it is a woman with bulimia. When you think about this, you can see how they are using pathos to pull at your emotions about a trouble in the world today." (Spoof Ad)

I can not give myself all the credit in my improvements in writing. Besides just following the requirements for the assignments, I feel that the way in which the class is set up helped me the most. One thing that definitely influenced the change in my writing is the peer review and the teacher feedback. In having people read my papers, and more importantly tell me what they taught, helped me get a much better perspective on my writing. Also in doing comments on other people's posts has helped me look at things I read in a different way, as our handouts put it "reading like a writer."

I feel that this class has improved the way that I look at writing too. I used to dread writing a paper, but now that I have different ways to organize and express my thoughts, I'm not so scared. I have even found myself having friends read my papers for other classes before I turn them in. I have learned that to find and understand your audience is one of the most important things to do.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

The Trouble with the News and Medicine

The cartoon above was first published in a newspaper in the United States, in 1997. The cartoon was published by King Features Publishing. Due to the content of this cartoon, the author is most likely liberal. This is a single frame cartoon of a television newscast, with words and images, both which are needed to convey the message. This cartoon is implying that a lot of the medical news announced is random, unsubstantiated, and panic inducing. This cartoon was published in 1997, but this issue is still occurring today, and has long before this cartoon was made. Even Mark Twain said, “Don’t trust what you read in health and diet books, you might die of a misprint” (Heussner ix). The news seems to jump on any new health story. This may not seem like a bad thing, using the media to spread health concerns, but without the proper background information and research, this can be very detrimental.

This cartoon uses both images and words to push this point. There are many ways that the words alone emphasize the author’s point. The most obvious is the title: “Today’s Random Medical News”. This tells you that the author feels that the medical news being released is basically pulled out of a hat. The subtitle on the right-hand side is a use of symbolism and parody. It is making fun of The New England Journal of Medicine, a prominent journal of new findings in the medical field that is commonly used as a reference for medical reports in the news today. The subtitle states that it is a journal of “panic-inducing gobbledy-gook.” Without the proper medical training that is exactly what it can become.

The imagery being used helps imply the specific media that the author is talking about, but it is also a use of symbolism and analogy. The image of a white, middle-aged male in a suit and tie, holding papers leads you to believe that he is a television news anchor. This makes the subject focused on television news reports. The use of the spinning wheels with pointers, and different items on them is symbolic of a game show. Some game shows, like “The Price is Right” and “Wheel of Fortune”, are based on the random spinning of a wheel. By using this symbol, in combination with specific medical terms, shows the randomness that seems to come with some of the news reports these days. In the cartoon the man even has his finger on a button, to cause the wheels to spin and see where they stop for the day. The words listed on the wheels are also used to emphasize the randomness of the stories. The words range from smoking to exercise, breast cancer to a feeling of well being, and two-income families to rats; with most of these match ups being totally ridiculous.

There is also a bit of pathos being used in this cartoon. The subtitle’s mention of “panic-inducing” appeals to the anxiety that most people have with their health. In these times our culture is trying to be so health conscious, the when new reports come out we all rush to follow the recommendations, or worry if we are at risk. Also the anchorman’s facial expression evokes emotion. His straight face and turned down mouth seems to be disappointing or disapproving, like even the anchorman doesn’t believe himself anymore.

All of this rhetoric is implying that issues come up with medical news reports. One problem that can arise is a misunderstanding of medical reports. News reporters aren’t trained in medical jargon, and that can cause a mistranslation of what the medical report is actually stating (Heussner xi). Another problem is when medical news is announced too soon. Sometimes the media reports a medical “breakthrough” before any tests can be done to confirm the findings (Heussner 7). There are also issues of news reports being made on the basis of sources that aren’t credible. This can cause warnings of medical illnesses and risks that aren’t true (Heussner 13). And last is something I think we all know about, the “spin” that reporters put on stories to make them more interesting (Heussner 30). This also leads to a mistranslation of the facts.

All of this can lead to mental and physical problems in the people that take these reports to heart. Premature reporting of new treatments can cause people to try dangerous things. In 1979 a news report came out about the use of snake venom in treating multiple sclerosis. Tons of people ran to try this potentially lethal drug, that wasn’t even FDA approved (Heussner 45). Sources that are not credible tend to give a lot of false hope to people; and when discovered, dashes people’s dreams and gives them depression. Also in 1979, a report was made about a boy with cerebral palsy running a 6.2 mile race. This gave many people with cerebral palsy great hope. The story was found to be false (Heussner 68), but how many people with cerebral palsy tried to run before this was found out?

This cartoon is a very well-rounded piece of rhetoric. It is very effective at making its point. The author of this cartoon uses a variety of different things, from a plain statement of it, to imagery to support the words. By doing this the idea of random, unsubstantiated, panic-inducing news reports is hard to ignore. Whether we look online, on television, or in a newspaper, we will find out about new medical “breakthroughs”. We need to be careful to try to find out more from credible sources before we take any action about them. Try to always be skeptical of news reports, to keep your hopes from getting too high before all the facts are known. And if there is a report that you are interested in, always contact a credible source to confirm or deny the story, such as your doctor, or a government agency (Heussner 181).

Works Cited:

Heussner R. Warning: The Media May Be Harmful To Your Health! New York: Andrews and McMeel. 1988 p221.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

A Place to Go

In my first semester back in school I have had to do a lot of research on a lot of different topics. But, in researching one topic for my Intro to Spanish-speaking Cultures class, I have become more interested than before. This topic is the country of Peru. I was assigned to do a report on Peru; and in doing so has made me want to go there more than ever.

I find this country intriguing for many different reasons; the first being the history of the land. Peru was once the heart of the Incan Empire. An indigenous empire that stretched from Southern Colombia all the way to the northern parts of Chile and Argentina. There are still many Incan ruins in Peru, one of the most famous being Machu Pichu. This ruin is located high in the Andes mountains; there are two ways to get there, by train or by foot. The trek by foot takes three days, where you camp on the trail at night. This is what I would love to do.

Another reason I would like to travel to Peru is because of the environment. Peru has everything you could need. On the West side is the Pacific ocean with tons of beaches and water to swim in. On the East side is the Amazon rain forest with beautiful plants and animals to see. And in the middle is the Andes mountains, with skiing and mountain climbing. Whatever your mood, you can probably do it in Peru.

The last thing I want to mention is the food. All vegetables and fish are picked/caught daily to be sold at the open markets. Only one word to the wise, be careful of the red meat if you are squeamish; a primary source for red meat are guinea pigs.

More Reflections on Life & Death

This weekend I had to go to the funeral of the mother of one of my best friends. She was more that just my friend's mom, she was my friend; my family. Her death came as a big shock to us all. In the middle of last week she went to bed and never woke up. We still don't even know what caused her death. The only health problem she had was high blood pressure, and there is no evidence of a stroke or heart attack.
This incident made me think a lot, especially of the reflections I had when the puppies were born. I had a lot of the same thoughts and feelings come up. Just thinking that life really is a miracle; I mean, even in death it keeps us wondering and in awe. Why did she have to die now, only in her early 50's? And how did she die, when she was in relatively good health, and nothing was found in the initial autopsy?
But, this experience in my life also brought new and different thoughts to my mind. In thinking that life is a miracle, I can't help thinking that it is also a gift to be treasured and appreciated. In seeing this, I realized that I never know when it will be my turn to go. It could be a total mystery, where I die in my sleep of no apparent cause, or I could be hit by a car while crossing the street; you never really know. I do want to keep some of these thoughts in my head, so that I remember to show everyone how much I care for them. In these busy days we sometimes forget to say "I love you" all the time, and I don't want to regret having not said it before I died.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Shark Tales

I couldn't decide what to write about, so I decided to write about one of my greatest obsessions; sharks. Ever since I was a child I have had this strange pull towards sharks. Growing up I wanted to be a marine biologist just to be able to dive with a Great White. I think sharks are wonderful, beautiful animals; and most people think I'm crazy for thinking so. But hopefully by sharing what I know about them, I can change those feelings.
Sharks are one of the oldest animals in the world, and have stayed unchanged for millions of years. Sharks have even found the cure for cancer. Scientists have tried to give cancer to sharks before, but they have something special that kills the cancer. Now we are trying to learn what that special something is from the sharks. If nothing else you have to give them some respect for just their evolutionary accomplishments. They have been on this planet since before humans were apes, and have seen a lot more than we have.
I know most people think "Jaws" when they think of sharks. Basically a giant set of teeth with a fin and tail that goes around eating anything it sees. This just isn't true, statistically you are more likely to be stung to death by bees then you are to be attacked by a shark. Millions of people go swimming with sharks every day, and they don't even know it. Also a Great White, in reality, only eats about once every 1 to 2 months. and that food is seals and whale carcasses; Great Whites are scavengers.
When you actually think about it, sharks have more to fear from us then we do from them. We pollute their waters, put up nets to drowned them, and more. The worst of it all is how they collect shark fins for shark fin soup. They catch the sharks, drag them on the boat, cut off all their fins, and throw them back into the ocean. Without their fins they can't swim, and if they can't swim they slowly drown or stave. So I ask, who is the real monster?