Mirror, Mirror… A Reflection. Blog #7

Well, here goes the drafting for my reflective essay, I am feeling very much up to the task seeing as most of the blogs we have written for this class have been at least somewhat reflective.

I’m not quite sure who I feel like writing to though so I’m going to spout off a few ideas for that as a freewrite first to see if maybe I can come to a decision that way. I have considered writing to several different people, the first of whom is my grandmother, I have been hesitant to give her my blog link because of the subject matter that I discuss in my blog, I am not certain that she would approve but I wonder if my writings could convince her to my side as I hope they will convince others one day. I guess I feel like explaining my motives to her, as well as the very positive direction I have found for my course of study and for my life as a result of this class. I will go into that later. Another person I have considered writing to is my little brother, I don’t know how effective this would be though because I have been discussing this course with him throughout its completion, maybe however that would be a positive thing, I’m on the fence with that one. I thought about writing to a friend or a group of my friends, convincing them to take a class like this one, because it has been such a positive experience for me. Ugg, still undecided, I guess I’ll just start drafting and see where my voice leads me.

What a class this has been! So much excitement! First we find out that this is no regular English class, but one in which we will be required to use technology (a BLOG oh NO!). Then not long into the quarter, after setting up my dreaded blog, we found out that we were getting a teacher swap, I was a little upset by this at first because I really liked Jen, she was just so energetic and passionate, and just the right amount of zany (which as you would know made me feel so much better because of my own crazy tendencies). However, after getting to know Lindsay, our new teacher, a little bit better I was just as happy to learn from her.

As I got used to the idea of having a blog, and posting my ideas and musings for that world to see, I began to really like it. I started receiving awesome feedback from my peers, and I got to research and write about something that I was really passionate about. Because my subject matter was of my choosing, the feedback I received really meant something to me and I began to be less hesitant about my writing and about discussing my topic.

The topic I chose was originally a bit exploratory, my question being: How are the methods that other countries employ in fighting opiate addiction different than the ones employed by the United States? As I got further into my topic I discovered that I actually have a very strong opinion on the right to handle opiate addiction in America, my opinion being, that America handles it very poorly and should start handling it like many European nations have begun to. I also became very excited about actually doing research.

The text that we were required to use in class was Bruce Ballenger’s “The Curious Researcher”. Instead of placing emphasis on correct formatting and regurgitating information, Ballenger places emphasis on learning, and on improving one’s writing on a more personal level. This was very exciting to me. I love to write and I love to learn so I threw myself into the activities we did in class with relish instead of reluctance.

As I researched and I wrote, I found myself more and more drawn into thinking about the researchers who had compiled the works from which I was drawing my information: anthropologists, scientists, and ethnographers, who were researchers and writers as well. As you know, for a while now I have been focusing my associates degree with the plan to move on into international studies and Anthropology, but to be perfectly honest I had no idea what career path I would want to follow once I had those degrees, I just knew that that area of study was where my passion lay. Because of this class and the interest we were encouraged to take in our own research and writing and because of a lot of the positive and interested feedback I received on my blog I finally know, what I can do with my unique skills set and interest. I can become one of these people that researched and compiled the works I used for my paper. I can travel and study other cultures and their methods for fighting addiction, I can write about them in the various languages that I have studied to master, then I can bring the knowledge I have gained to the right people and maybe someday I can work to affect a change in the way the world views the problem of addiction. Lofty goals I know, but at least now I have a dream.

To be continued…

The friendly person behind a desk

Please note that this is a very late re-write seeing as wordpress lost my first version and I stupidly did not save it anywhere. My Clark library encounter is now a bit foggy so please excuse the details.

I have always loved books. When I was really young my parents would read stories to me and as I grew up I developed an intense fascination with the written word. I read my first real book to myself when I was four it was “Island of the Blue Dolphin” and when I finished it I was immediately hungry for more. I grew up in Bloomington Indiana, a college town with a wonderful public library, even before I could read it was my favorite place in the world. There was a nice lady behind a desk that would show me where there were books with pictures, and explain to me how the tadpoles in a tank in the children’s section would someday look like the huge bullfrog that sat in its corner.  I remember a time when I lost my dad and brother in the four stories of books and so I went to the safest place I could think of to wait to be found: The desk of the nice librarian in the children’s section where she used the intercom to notify the library that a lost child was in the children’s section and then read a story to me while we waited for my father to appear.

Books have always been a safe place for me. When stressed or sad or scared, I like to lose myself in another place and time, in the world my imagination brings to life from the written word. So it stands to reason that a library, any library, is a step into my happy place and therefore familiar and beloved.

When I became a student at Clark, the first place I visited after registration was Canelle Library, where I planned to explore its shelves and databases, with the practiced eye of a true library veteran. This of course did not work out so well. Clark’s wonderful library did have books, but the shelves were filled with unfamiliar volumes and its databases were fully computerized (computers intimidate me). I found the silence unnerving rather than comforting and fled this college library that differed so much from the public libraries I know and love.

However, in later years I returned to the library, needing to find an ethnography for an anthropology course, then later to learn what the best references for a history paper would be. I became most comfortable in the library when I took English 101 several years ago and had to use the computers therein to do all of the research and write all of the papers for that class.

So all in all I was pretty confident when I walked into the library for my required informational session. I went up to the desk and informed the librarian (Zachary hence forth) that I was there because I was required to be for English 102, I told him that I already knew my way around the library pretty well but was intimidated by computer databases. He told me that many people had been in for this assignment before me and that I was not the only one who had an issue with computer databases.

I told him about the main research problem that I was having with my topic; that it is something both with a lot of history and a lot of pertinent current events. He told me that my best bet would probably be to use scholarly journal articles for most of my information. He showed me a few databases that I could use but to be perfectly honest I didn’t pay very close attention and forgot much of what he told me. He also mentioned that the public library might have some better sources because my topic is not one that a school library would ordinarily have a lot of information on.

Zachary was really nice and upbeat, he seemed to seriously love his job, and that is something that I love to see in any person. I found that this librarian was just as nice and helpful as the lady behind the desk back in the children’s section of the Bloomington library. My visit helped me get over the last of my awkwardness in using a school library instead of a public one. Ironically however the database that I pulled most of my sources from was one I have used in countless research works in the past, and it comes from the Fort Vancouver Regional Library and not Cannelle.  I ended up with so many sources that I became rather overwhelmed, and read too much of too few sources because I was rather engrossed. Gosh, research is a messy business.

My revision nightmare… turned it all around Blog#6

Soooo… blog number six, I kind of love that my brain is so packed with new information that I’m having trouble deciding what part of this revisionist process to write about first.

I guess I’ll start with my frustration that whenever I cut something out to rephrase or extrapolate, my paper ends up getting longer not shorter, and my first draft was already over word count. The issue is that the only things I could really take out without leaving out vital information are anecdotes and personal experiences that make the paper far more reader friendly and interesting. Not only am I having trouble “trimming the fat” so to speak, but I also now have an incredibly relevant and essential current event to insert; the summary of which will take at least a paragraph.

I am feeling moderately insane.

My next constructive criticism to myself is a lament for my written gesticulations. I have found multitudes of places where a gesture will improve my voice, but again, I am running up against the barrier of a word limit. Who ever thought I would be wishing for a higher word count? I wonder if I should add more gestures or leave my voice alone seeing as I obviously have a big mouth even in writing. I wonder if my voice shines through without the extra gestures that we were required to insert in our in-class “work-out” and I honestly can’t decide how to resolve my serious issue with brevity. Shall I sacrifice information, entertainment, voice, or audience connection? Which do I have too much of and which not enough?

My cat seems not to care at all, she just lay down directly in the center of my torn and taped essay remnants looking at me in that way that only cats can; suggesting that whatever I am doing is far less important than petting her.

The one area of revision that I am not bemoaning, is organization, upon finishing my rough draft I knew that I had jumped topics constantly in my rush to put all of my ideas on the page. I went from Healthcare problems, to legal problems and back again, then jumping to theoretical solutions, and foreign policy, and then circled around all over again. It was far easier to reorganize than I thought it would be, especially after our in-class activity of literal cut and paste.

I think I will leave this for now as it is only Friday and I am already obsessing and stressing. Time for a break, I will complete this blog on Sunday to let you know how I solved my revision issues. I’m sure you will all be on the edge of your seats in anticipation 😉

So here I am, back again on Saturday instead of Sunday, because I have other obligations for Sunday and need to finish this now.

I can’t believe I actually pared down my essay to fit onto ten pages without sacrificing any vital information, and I think I kept it pretty interesting as well. I am mentally drained by the experience but happy with the result. My conclusion could probably use some work but at the same time, I feel that my research and its progression through my paper kind of draws its own conclusion with just a few turns of phrase to clarify that what I was able to convey within the scope of this paper is by no means all that can be said of, about, around, and for my topic.

I guess that pretty much sums up my revision drama, I feel like I should have more to say but words simply fail me right now.

I am so tired that I have typed out three sentences before this one and deleted each one as irrelevant or silly, I suppose this is a bit silly too, but in the style of free-write I’m just gonna go with it, because I really can’t think of more to write on the topic of revision.

On the subject of voice however, I do have an amusing anecdote: So to find out if my voice was showing through in my paper I decided to have some of my paper read aloud to me like the exercise we did in class. Having my brother read my paper aloud however was almost worthless because he uses the same intonations and cadence that I do in my speech. When he read my paper aloud it sounded just like it did when I read it aloud… which is to say, like me. Therefor I found it kinda hard to tell if my paper sounds like me or if my brother and I just sound freakily alike.

Anyway, good luck all on your papers and your revisions, I wish you stress free revisions peaceful nights.

My Voice…

When hearing my paper read aloud by someone else, i was actually surprised that i could hear myself. even the way in which the sources were cited sounded like me. However, i wonder if i am really writing to my audience or am i having a very in depth conversation with myself. i think it bodes well for my voice and my subject matter that upon finishing reading two pages of my paper, my partner had several questions, which i answer later in said paper. All in all i think my voice certainly dominates my paper, maybe too much, but at least i don’t ramble.

Leading In… Blog #5

There are so many ways that I have thought about starting my research paper, in this blog I will give my readers a chance to tell me which you think is the most powerful. Here goes…

Lead in 1 Scene:

In an American Jail a young adult shivers under a single blanket on a thin mat in a filthy ten by ten cement room. There are six sickly women in the cell with a single metal toilet, no widows, no shower, a drain in the center of the floor, and a camera in the corner. This young woman is addicted to heroin, she was arrested for possessing the substance that she is a slave to. She is fevered, with abscesses on her arms from shooting up with dirty needles, and she suffers from continual vomiting and diarrhea. The only fluids she has access to are from a filthy drinking fountain that her shaking legs can barely carry her too. She will receive only enough medical attention to keep her alive because her misery is of her own making.

This is a scene all too common in American correctional facilities. Addicts undergoing severe symptoms of withdrawal are placed in a detox room for a minimum of twenty four hours, the purpose of the detox room is theoretically to keep people in this sorry condition away from the general population of inmates in a jail, and to give them more constant medical surveillance and attention. However in many Jails people in detox receive no hot meals, nothing in which to hold water, and even less comfortable accommodations than are afforded to the general population of Inmates. Does this seem right? Does this seem helpful to anyone involved? Does this make a person less likely to continue the behavior of drug abuse when they are released from the abuse of their government?


Lead in 2 background:

In the 1920s prohibition started the “war on drugs” The American government began to fight a losing battle against substance abuse problems ranging from Alcohol prohibition, to the opium wars, to banning the cocaine that up to that point was still the key ingredient in Coca-Cola. Finally the American government caved and re-legalized alcohol which to this day remains one of the most dangerous addictive substances in existence because detox from it can lead to death, we also allow the use of opiates and benzodiazepines (the other two substances that the withdrawal from which can kill a person) for the treatment of medical problems. However the U.S. took a stand in outlawing marijuana, which is in no way addictive, cocaine which has no withdrawal symptoms and a lower overdose rate than opiates, heroin, which is molecularly identical to morphine, and a variety of other substances that are either still prescribed in some form or another or are far less dangerous than some drugs that are still medically legal! Our esteemed government will allow the prescription of these dangerous chemicals, will arrest people who abuse them, but will offer no aid to people caught unintentionally in the throes of addictions that our society finds distasteful and taboo.


Lead in 3 Question:

Why are seventy percent of American cases of HIV caused by injection drug use? Why do other countries tolerate safe havens for opiate addicts to get and use their drug? Why and how has America lost the war on Drugs?


Lead in 4 Scene:

In a ramshackle building in the bad part of the city of Madrid, a man steps through the door. His eyes are sunken, his cheeks are hollow and his arms, hidden under long sleeves, are scarred, but he has bathed recently, he is not disease ridden, and he has never committed a crime against anyone but himself. He goes up to a window in the room behind which a volunteer sits, she hands him some paper-work which he fills out and he signs in. He is then escorted through a door to a room in which he is given a clean intra-venous needle, a dose of pure heroin, and a disposable cooking device. The man sits alongside others much like himself and shoots himself up, the trained professionals around the room watch him and the others closely for signs of overdose, if they show none within 30 minutes they are free to leave after safely disposing of all paraphernalia received of entry to the facility. He receives a pamphlet for free addiction treatment as he walks out the door, he will eventually get clean and have a job and family.

In the United States, the man’s American counter-part hunches under a bridge in Los Angeles, his face looks the same but under his sleeves infection rages, he is positive for hepatitis C and he has just come from robbing someone’s home. This man is about to inject some black-tar heroin into his arm, he has no idea of its potency but he just hopes that it is strong enough to get fixed, if it is strong enough to kill him, he hopes his companions will dump him at the entrance to an Emergency room instead of leaving him to die alone. The needle he is using has been used by two other people before him and the water he uses to cook his shot came from a puddle. He is a convicted felon, he cannot get a job, and he has no insurance and therefor no way to get clean, he will keep using until he is either dead or in jail.

Fast Writing after partner discussion

After talking with my in class partner I find that I am even more convinced that policies concerning opiate addiction in America need to be changed. “The war on drugs” is over, we lost. Battling addiction in the legal system was never effective and has become even less so over time. Addiction of any kind should be treated as a medical issue, not a legal one. Especially in the case of opiate dependency. My partner and I agreed that opiate dependency starts in the medical field and it should be treated there. Doctors still prescribe various forms of opiates for various levels of pain but once someone becomes addicted the medical profession steps out and the legal system takes over. This approach is unhealthy and unhelpful, locking up an addict does nothing to stop the cycle of addiction and can even make it worse. I guess my point is that because opiate dependency causes physical, medical reactions, that it should be treated as a medical issue. This is not the case with all drug addictions and part of my position is that policy should be formed on a case by case, substance, by substance basis, we cannot paint all addictions with the same brush, just as we cannot paint all people with the same brush.

The walls are caving in Blog #4

Wow! I am having an incredibly difficult time wrapping my head around the fact that the quarter is halfway over, this past week reality has seemed to crash down on me and my stress level has gone through the roof! Somehow I believed I had a great deal more time before I would have to actually compose a ten page rough draft (for English), write and deliver two separate speeches (for public speaking), and memorize, rehearse and deliver a scene and a monologue (for drama). I found myself having a minor break-down on Wednesday night due to the fact that I am quite simply overwhelmed. this is my first year back at school after two years of virtual inactivity, and I believe I may have bitten of a tad more than I can comfortably chew. Thus I am feeling as if the metaphorical walls of my life are caving in. However, I am a survivor, and though the walls are caving and I’m quite certain that the sky is falling, I plan to put on a helmet and stretch my arms as wide as they will go and HOLD until summer quarter is over and I can collapse into a gelatinous heap.

luckily, I am thoroughly enjoying my English 102 class and the research that I have been doing my final paper. Although I am enjoying my research, I must say that I can’t get behind Ballenger’s approach to note taking, my tried and true method seems simpler, less time consuming, and it has never failed me or caused me to plagiarize. I try not to take specific notes because I often find that once I re-write something in my own words and don’t put it directly into a paper with a citation I end up forgetting where the source left off and my ideas begin. As I mentioned early on in this post I am feeling a bit stressed out now that the true weight of my commitments has reared its ugly head, so, I have decided to stick with what works for me as far as note-taking and research is concerned. My method for research is not all that different from Ballenger’s in it’s end result. As I read through sources I automatically absorb information so I document every source that I read more than a few words of. For each source I write down the general topic that it covers and any main points that pertain to my topic of study, I also document the page numbers that contain any information that I might want to use. I read with a very high comprehension level, no matter the material, I automatically process the information and how it will be of use to me, sometimes I record in my notes what part of my paper would benefit from the source. By using this method I can easily refer back to my source while in the actual process of writing my paper. I never use information taken directly from my notes so that I avoid unintentional quotes or paraphrase. Also, by using my method, I find that I actually retain most of the knowledge I gain in my research instead of storing it on paper for transfer to another paper, I store it in my head.

A problem that I am having in the execution of research and study on my topic is the sheer magnitude of information available to me. Even after narrowing my focus to include only the policies and practices concerning the treatment, prosecution, and proliferation of opiate addiction in the United States and other nations, as opposed to those of all drugs, the information is endless. I am sorting through piles of studies, reports, debates, theories, arguments, interviews, and statistics, and all of them are formatted to support differing viewpoints and opinions. I chose a controversial topic because I find that they are the most interesting to research and to write about. In doing so in this instance however, I have found so much conflicting information that I could write three ten page essays, one for policy change, one against policy change, and one on the history of the many approaches attempted to stem the tide of opiate addiction around the world.

Even though I am thoroughly overwhelmed with the amount of writing and research that I am having to do this quarter, at least in the case of this class I am studying something that fascinates me and that I am passionate about. I have known many people who have struggled with opiate addiction and I really believe that change is necessary to see it defeated. It is a challenge for me to incorporate the opinions of the many that believe that zero tolerance is the way to battle addiction in our country, but in doing so I have found that I have gained an even better understanding of the manner in which people may be convinced to another approach. This is my way of writing in the middle, I definitely have a strong preexisting opinion but by looking at both sides of the coin I can write to benefit my ideas and other people.

A Study in Studying Blog #3

It is fascinating to do research on the internet, I find myself writing this blog last minute because I started doing some research on my topic. Hours later I am much more knowledgeable not only about my topic but about a wide range of subjects both related and unrelated to drug policies in the U.S. versus drug policies in foreign countries. I now could carry on fairly in depth conversations on the decriminalization of marijuana in the Netherlands, a study on the addition of controlled amounts of heroin to the methadone program, the motives behind most theft and violent crimes in the United States, and the connections between illiteracy and crime. I have an extremely curious mind and every time google spits out an interesting new link, I just have to explore. Once I start reading a well written article or a heated online debate between strangers, I’m hooked I just have to know more. I am having a very hard time focusing my research, I keep finding interesting new facts and trying to think of ways to incorporate them into my chosen topic. However, after much ado about everything I have actually decided to narrow my focus for now but may expand it again later depending on the amount of information I glean and how well it will fit into a ten page research paper.
My topic for our final essay in English 102 is a study on the drug policies in America as compared to the drug policies in some other foreign countries. In doing some basic and general research on my topic I have found some very interesting cases of differing foreign policies around the globe. I have decided to focus my research on policies mostly concerning opiates, most specifically heroin, which is the most addictive drug on the market as well as the most dangerous and prolific world-wide. One reason for the proliferation of opiate abuse is the fact that opiates are still prescribed in many different forms for a wide range of ailments from in-grown toenails to cancer and everything in between, and once a person is physically and mentally addicted to opiates, many will do anything to get them, and if they can’t get the pills, people often switch to heroin which is cheaper, stronger, and easier to get because it is not monitored by physicians pharmacies and the government… But what if it was?
In ten countries around the world there have been established “legal drug consumption rooms” mostly focused on intra-venous heroin users. In these establishments, the government provides users with a controlled amount of heroin and clean needles. Not only does this practice allow quality control of heroin, it has reduced the spread of disease, and overdoses. The policy of tolerance has also reduced theft, violent crimes, and cartel power in the countries that have embraced it. Another policy that I discovered is a new take on the methadone program. The Netherlands is doing a study to increase the effectiveness of methadone clinics. The idea is that methadone substitution is not completely effective because although methadone will keep an addict from going through withdraw it does not give a user the euphoric “rush” that heroin does. For this reason the people involved in the study receive a prescribed dose of heroin every so often to keep them from purchasing heroin on the street where there is no quality control and the money is lost to the black market and drug cartels.
These approaches to addiction are very radical, and needless to say, they meet with a large amount of disapproval and resistance, people do not want their tax dollars going to supply addicts with their drugs. What these people do not see is that by supplying addicts for free their homes and businesses are in less danger of theft, and they are less likely to come across a junkie that is so strung out they have become violent. The regulation of free access to heroin also takes the legs out from under gangs and drug cartels, reducing violence from and the power of those groups. Although there will probably always be a black market for drugs and illicit weapons, a lower demand for black market drugs will severely reduce the presence of the cartels in the countries that adopt this practice.
So far all of my research has served to solidify my belief that the American policy on drugs and addiction is severely flawed. I have found a variety of reports that prosecution and incarceration of drug offenders simply serves to inflame the problem. I am finding it fairly simple to develop my working knowledge into a focused knowledge, there is so much information on this subject that I can pick and choose my sources. There are interviews and speakers that focus on fighting to changes America’s drug policies, there is even a whole group called the Drug Policy Alliance with a website dedicated to articles and information concerning the need for change and the changes being made.
All in all, I believe I have had a very successful week of general research, now I just have to form a strategy and a plan to keep my research on focus so as not to be distracted by the wealth of information on related topics.

Curiouser and Curiouser Blog #2

In Bruce Ballenger’s “The Curious Researcher” Chapter 2 is devoted to developing a research strategy. This is one of the tasks that I find most difficult in any research topic, I tend to be a sloppy researcher. I have a habit of going of on tangent-like learning quests, becoming so engrossed in my new-found knowledge that I jump from source to source recording notes, but not the sources from whence they came. I also have a tendency to answer one question in one answer but with information gleaned from multiple sites. Due to these lapses in organization, I often begin the process of writing a research paper not with actual research but by creating a basic outline for the body of my paper using questions and whatever little I know about the subject. My initial outline generally ends up being almost unrecognizable in relation to the finished paper but it helps me to keep my note-taking on track and if I get lost in a successive chain of sources, it helps me to re-find the beginning of my chain. The one good thing about being a sloppy researcher is that I end up learning much more than I originally set out to, and as a result my papers become filled with fun facts, and my head becomes filled with new tasty tidbits. For these reasons it is essential that I develop a research strategy and do my best to stick with it. Unfortunately, in this age of the internet it is far to simple for a distractible researcher like me to become distracted, I love to use the internet as a research tool, but if I start my search on Google or Wikipedia I almost always end up with a huge amount of new knowledge but no idea where I got it.

In Chapter 2 of “The Curious Researcher” Ballenger discusses the pros and cons of “Google vs. the Library” (52) I love the wealth of knowledge that is available on the internet and the bulk of my research usually is conducted on the world wide web. I have found, however, that in order to maintain a structure to my learning and to keep my curious mind from becoming distracted from my topic it is best to begin my studies in the library, with a stack of books. Sometimes I find it tedious to flip through book after book in order to glean a snippet here and a quote there, but I also find, that the information that I get from books often leads me to more fruitful internet searches and better inquiry questions, not to mention easier parenthetical references and a more complete works cited page.

It seems wonderful to me, that in this English 102 class we are encouraged to write to learn as opposed to learning just so that we have something to write about. I am a very creative person, with a very curious mind so I love to learn through any creative process. I have always enjoyed both the research and the writing parts of my English classes over the years and I am loving the way in which the to processes are combined in this class. Even in writing these blogs I feel that I learn something new with each entry. In class on Monday, we did an exercise designed to help us to come up with a topic to research that we would find interesting. Even though I had already chosen a subject about which I am passionate and with which I am intrigued, I found it a fascinating brain-mapping type exercise and it has already helped me in another class.

It is so exciting to be doing things in an English class that can be used in life outside of the classroom. English has always been one of my favorite subjects but I have only ever applied it creatively outside of school. I love to learn for the sake of learning but I am finding that I enjoy learning with a purpose even more. I think part of my enthusiasm in tackling this research can be attributed to the theme for this week “The importance of being curious” (a play on words that I immediately liked because of it’s origin as one of my favorite plays, Oscar Wild’s “The importance of Being Ernest”). I believe strongly that curiosity is essential to growth and intelligence. Whether one is curious about the meaning of life and the grand design of the universe (my brother), the best way to brew the perfect India Pale Ale (my mother), what movie scripts are most in demand on the current market (my dad),or what area of study I should focus on for my bachelor’s degree (me) without curiosity, no knowledge can be gained, no new inventions could be formed, and the world would be a very dull place.