About Me

I currently attend the University of Texas and I am majoring in Nursing. For fun I enjoy working out, playing golf and soccer. My favorite time of the year is during college football season! I work in the Neonatal ICU at Brackenridge Hospital and I love it there.

Friday, August 3, 2007

No More Horse Meat

The Star-Telegram reports that two Texas slaughterhouses were closed in the last year while a third one continues to hang on - though just barely. The catch? These slaughterhouses were killing horses for human consumption.

While the practice might sound almost to par with consuming dog or cat (the punchline of many south Asian jokes), I feel the entire argument rather serves to show how our American legal system is based solely upon cultural feelings and lobbying powers rather than logically founded arguments and conclusions.

Though the thought of consuming horse meat is not necessarily something that appeals to me (though I would happily try it), I feel it is purely illogical to legally assert that one species of an animal is somehow less worthy of slaughter than another. Rephrased: that it is somehow 'better' to kill a cow, chicken, goat, sheep, etc., while sparing a horse. Veal for example is a very popular dish in the United States and I think there are few not familiar with the process of 'obtaining' it from the small calf. Yet while frowned upon by some, the practice remains entirely legal.

Still, we have clearly drawn the line somewhere over the years namely with dogs and cats; both which remain illegal for consumption in most states (Hawaii is one particular exception). And why? For no other reason than cultural sensitivity. This is where you should feel the need to recall that "what's right is not always popular, and what is popular is not always right."

By giving certain animals a 'place in society' while legislating that others are expendable, we are (a) creating an indiscernible opinion of whether or not a species should be eligible for consumption, (b) choosing to be unsympathetic to the cultures of other societies, and (c) proving once more that our legal system is not predicated upon intellect, logic, and fair practice, but rather dictated by feelings.

To argue that a horse (or other animal for that matter) should not be slaughtered because it is a majestic animal, or that it has a place in the family, etc. is about as sound as arguing one religion is better than another. It is not that the argument can't be made with pros and cons, but rather that it is impossible to draw a conclusion given that the antecedent is merely an opinion. An unregulated market would provide local areas the ability choose what foods were sold and consumed based upon simple supply and demand economics.

...or perhaps it would be better to outlaw lobster in Brooklyn?

So to conclude, while horse meat might not be the most popular consumable dish in our country, it seems that it would be better to legislate within logical legislative boundaries rather than continually appeal to the cries from lobbyists. Though I do not [personally] want to see an increase in the number of horses slaughtered, it seems a poor way to legislate all the while providing the general public the freedom to be ignorant of their own hypocrisy.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Toilets for All

Andy posted an article about a new law in Texas allowing people to use store restrooms as needed.

While ultimately this sounds like something that should exist in society in the first place (for plain human decency), I am a little confused about how the legislation is worded, or at least how the article cited it.

Best I can tell, the general idea is that one can come off of the street in search of a bathroom and legally get to use it. No more, 'restrooms only for employees', or even 'restrooms only for customers'.

But then the article says:

The law defines customers as those who are lawfully on the premises suggesting that store managers or owners are not required to accommodate anyone off the street demanding a bathroom.

So the first question that comes to mind is what the law is supposed to accomplish IF the 'customer' needs to lawfully be on the premise in the first place? While there certainly ways to be unlawfully on commercial property, it sounds to me like anyone could technically be rejected on that premise?


The new law, formally known as the Restroom Access Act, guarantees customers with certain medical conditions the use of a retail store's bathroom.

So even though the first paragraph suggests those with a simple stomach bug would be granted access to the facilities, it seems that some medical condition is still necessary. Are we to keep doctor notes with us now, or does having a bottle of Peptol in your purse count? I can't help but note that an unfortunate afternoon stomach-ache hardly constitutes a medical condition.

In summation of those two points, it's not that I have any problem with the law, I just can't see how it fixes the current lack of one.

No one has an ulcerative colitis or Crohn's silver bracelet (referring to diabetics), and ultimately the store STILL has the right to refuse service.

It just seems that there may be some holes in this new law, at least upon initial inspection.

And as for your own response, I find this commentary a little unfortunate:

But retail store owners need not be afraid of the wanton bathroom user, i.e. the homeless, for they have the right to ask for evidence of a medical condition before relinquishing their facilities.

I hate to point it out, but despite however long the homeless will be ignored in our society, their bodies function just like the rest of ours. When they have to go, they have to go. Cities typically make no accommodations for public restrooms and the reality is that streets are desecrated with human waste.

And what about a homeless man who DOES have a medical condition? Should s/he not be included here too?

Finally, bear in mind that they [the homeless] are the very people that will have no one to stand up for them when they ARE actually denied a toilet.

Steroids for Students

A Lone Star Opinion posted the following editorial about high school athlete steroid testing. I've got a few thoughts of my own on it.

While I don't entirely disagree with your point of view here, I think you have a number of misconceptions throughout your analysis.

Do we really want the state singling out our children and examining a very private aspect of a minors life? I would say no.

Ideally, no. But I'm confused about what is the 'very private aspect' of the minor's life. Are you alleging that the student SHOULD be able to choose whether or not to take steroids? In fact, forget the age, enhancement steroids are schedule III drugs in thing country and unprescribed possession can result in jail time.

Additionally, you later make comments regarding what parents could look for: "...sudden mood swings or quick massive growth...". The reality is that steroids don't always produce those results. I've known many a person to have taken steroids (especially in high school) and the results are always different, and ALMOST always negative.

If other substances besides steroids are found, what will be the protocol in that situation?

I think that is a valid question, but what do YOU think should be the protocol? If the student is found with say, cocaine in his or her system, what then? Should their drug consumption be ignored? From what I understand, most school districts have strict policies on athletes and drug usage. Are you perhaps suggesting that testing for steroids could possible result in discovering some other narcotic that might place the athletes standing in jeopardy?

High school athletes are armature athletes. They do not play for money, only for the love of the game. They take all the responsibility and risk upon themselves.

Firstly, I think there are many reasons why high school athletes play sports. Some play for the love of the game, but what about those playing for scholarships? ...something VERY pertinent to small Texas.

Secondly, the athletes (still students mind you) play as representatives of their school. These are not club team athletes being described, but rather high school athletes playing within the athletic jurisdiction of the UIL.

Thirdly, should the level of competition somehow dictate how one is able to cheat? If anything, it seems to me that students should be pushed even HARDER not to take steroids, given they have no financial gain.

While I can appreciate your efforts to suggest ways in which this sort of program could be avoided, I think the reality is that it [steroid testing] will happen very soon (if not right now).

Since I can fully appreciate powerless feeling a young individual feels when being subjected to such tests (especially when innocent), I do have a possible solution. I would propose in the law the inclusion of students being allowed to have their own private tests done by family physicians, state doctors, etc. This could possibly be subsidized if not entirely funded by the state.

If the real idea is to protect children from hurting themselves, presenting this as an option would allow (and hopefully encourage) parents to take an active role - which is really the problem in the first place.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Unicorns, Leprechauns, and Airport Screenings

The Houston Chronicle ran an interesting piece about the security of Houston's airports. The article evidently stems from an incident that took place last November (2006) whereby "... a 9-volt battery, wires, pipes and a brown clay-like substance" were found in a someone's checked luggage. Though the items were ultimately confiscated (though no real word on what happened to the individual), the incident wound up creating some 'scary' words in a report issued months later.

Though I was not able to find the report itself (in all likeliness it's classified or at least very confidential), my suspicion is that it didn't talk about the real problem at hand - that the entire screening process is a joke, and America's tolerance of it is the punchline.

Now perhaps that last statement is slightly over the top, but if so, it's only ever so slightly. The screenings DO reduce the chances of thug-like individuals and the like from having weapons and from bringing them on board. Should a hot-headed argument ensue at 30,000ft, at least it should be reduced to words and possibly fists. But that is about the end of it. The notion that the screening process has somehow made air travel ANY safer [from would be terrorists] is laughable at best.

Let's start with some basic reasoning for this:

Firstly, the fact always remains that anyone determined enough can usually accomplish just about anything. That in itself is a hard lesson for most Americans to understand, but it's true. And despite any presidential rhetoric we may be told, this has nothing to do with 'your enemy', but rather just that anyone is capable of such feats should they whole-heartedly feel they need to.

Secondly, if the threat to airports, air travel, and etc., is real and avoidable, why do we employ the lowest common denominator as the gatekeepers of our alleged safety? I just spent two minutes on Google looking for open TSA positions. Here are the TWO qualifications required for a screener job at Dulles International Airport:

  1. You must be a U.S.Citizen or U.S. National; AND
  2. You must have a high school diploma, GED or equivalent; OR at least one year of full-time work experience in security work, aviation screener work, or x-ray technician work.
So if you read that closely enough, you (1) do NOT need to be a U.S. citizen, and (2) could NEVER have gone to school so long as you can justifiably say you worked in security for a year.

Obviously, the most basic of problems is that rather than rely upon intuition, logical assessments, and general analytical abilities capable of most human beings with an education, the job relies upon bureaucratic generalities - and not very good ones either.

We've all seen the security guard who requires you to walk through the entire maze of ropes when there is no line. Moreover, the same individual who will attempt to discipline you should you just walk around them to save time. Why is this? On one hand it's possibly due to the power trip many individuals feel when in such situations; unfortunate, but common nonetheless. On the other hand, it's simply an individual doing exactly what he is told to do without any express thought for the situation around him. The problem is that so long as you do exactly what you're told to do, you can get away with just about anything.

I could point out problem after problem with our system, but in the meanwhile it seems almost futile. So while the TSA might label me a pessimist and a terrorist might label me an optimist, I just wonder how many more articles I'll read in the coming years about our 'safety'.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Colleges Dumbing Down For Texans

Here's an interesting article titled, "Ben Franklin, first president of the U.S.?" from the Forth Worth Star-Telegram, detailing some of the shameful ignorance displayed by college graduates from our state.

While this problem is not really anything new to the country, one might expect that states would take the initiative to rectify the situation (or at least we would hope so). Texas, I fear, is going out of it's way to do just the opposite in this case. Enter Texas House bill #588.

I've never been a particular fan of the infamous 10% state rule that we adhere to, and reading an article like this only makes me 90% more disappointed in/at that system. The problem is simple: we've stopped making students more intelligent, but rather have employed a system that simply sets the bar much lower. As we continue down this path, it should not be long before we just lay the bar on the ground. ...if you can spell your first name, you're granted a diploma.

To anyone NOT familiar with our system [Texas House Bill #588], the 10% rule simply states that anyone who graduates within the top 10% of their graduating high school class is automatically eligible for (and granted) entrance to a state-funded university or college. As far as I understand, the system was designed to help balance the socio-economic disparity that has long since plagued the Texas education system (arguably this automatically makes race a determining factor as well).

Unfortunately for the state of Texas, and in this case George Washington too, its primary flaw is obvious.

Consider two scenarios: (a) a graduating class of 500 people where the average class GPA is a 3.3 and the average SAT score is a 1050 and (b) a graduating class of 500 people where the average class GPA is a 2.5 and the average SAT score is an 850.

Under our law, and all other things being equal, BOTH schools are guaranteed to have 50 people from each class admitted into a state-funded university. This fact remains even though the math would clearly show that student #51 from (a) is a much more suitable candidate than a fair portion (if not all) of the top 50 from (b). Granted, this simplistic argument does NOT take into account WHY class (b) has the scores that they do. Is it likely that 500 students are just less capable than 500 others? Probably not - which gets into other determining factors I won't discuss here.

But going back to the original topic at hand, the question I'd like to pose is: At what point of ignorance do we have to stop and analyze the education we are 'handing out' in this state? Is it NOT sufficient enough that Ben Franklin was the first president of the United States?

Given our especially low scholastic expectations and exceedingly high levels of state pride, my guess is students won't be ridiculed until they start calling it '5 flags over Texas' - and even still, the ridicule will simply come from not knowing the name of an amusement park, never mind the history therein.