Category Archives: News

Quick! Write the Headline!

I never like to admit it, especially being a journalism major at Abilene Christian, but I don’t read newspapers for conventional reasons. In fact, unless I’m reading the sports page, I’m hardly ever actually reading news. I’m looking for other things.

I have a guilty pleasure.

Let me make something clear before I tell you what I read the paper for. News is extremely valuable. Journalism has given me a great appreciation for hard news, soft news, storytelling, writing and everything that goes along. I’m not downplaying the significance journalism plays in our world. In fact, I hope to see if anyone can identify with me.

I look for mess-ups in newspaper headlines — funny mess-ups.

Inadvertently funny newspaper headlines are what make the weightiness of news worth sifting through. Hypothetical situation; you are a journalist. You’ve been laboring on a news story all week and the five o’clock deadline is fast approaching. Time is ticking, five o’clock is moments away and you’re tweaking the last sentence of your article. You feel good about this story. You’ve interviewed the right people, gotten great quotes, your rhetoric is flawless and your editor is stunned with your skills.

It is time to turn in the article when you realize there is no headline! How can such an awe-inspiring newspaper article not have an astounding headline? You panic, deadline was thirty seconds ago. You quickly scan your wits to come up with a solution to your dilemma when you write this:

Oblivious to your unintentional pun, your story and your inspiring new headline run in the paper the next morning for the entire world to see.

It’s okay to laugh. I’ve learned that laughing at myself and my work has pushed me to become better at what I do. Enjoyment is something many people go without while on the job which is a saddening thought to me. Laughter is a line that can disconnect a job from enjoyment if we make a big deal out of ourselves; I pray that you cross it.

Here are some more funny newspaper headlines with Jay Leno!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NDPvNSN0gFg&feature=related

Enjoy your day.

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Don’t Copy That Floppy! Or Cartridge…

The war on illegal software piracy and copying is as old as computer software itself. “Don’t Copy That Floppy” was the big PSA campaign used by the Software Piracy Association (now known as the Software & Information Industry Association) in 1992, when copying a computer game was literally as easy as 1, 2, 3. Today we have DRM, Digital Rights Management, which uses a variety of methods to make sure you’re playing a game or watching a movie you legitimately paid money for, and didn’t just download or torrent from someone. It’s a whole lot harder to get away with piracy today than it was 20 years ago, but where there’s a will, there’s a way. Even when it seems like a software company is a step ahead, hackers always find a way to break their new encryption technique. And over the years, some of  these techniques have been very creative.

On the home console side, Nintendo was the leader in the fight against software piracy. In around 1994, the illegal copying of Super Nintendo cartridges was on the rise. The standard in the industry at the time was to use a bit of code called a “checksum.” This is a check that happens usually when you turn on the console. (Much like the region check I posted about earlier.) It adds up a block of code in the game’s memory and checks the sum of that code with a defined number of what it should be. If the sums match, the game runs. If they don’t, it means that something has probably been modified, and it stops the game from functioning. But most software pirates had easily figured out how to bypass that check. So Nintendo decided to try something different this time around with a new game they had coming out: EarthBound. On its own, it’s a remarkable RPG, and probably one of my favorite video games of all time. But even more remarkable is the many anti-piracy safeguards that, in some cases, play tricks on the would-be software pirate.

Nintendo’s first line of defense is a few bits of code that, on startup, checks the SRAM of the cartridge, which is the part where your progress is saved. An official, Nintendo-produced cartridge has 8 kilobytes here, but many copied cartridges have more. So, if this check finds the cart has more than 8KB, it displays the screen on the right and doesn’t allow the game to go any further. Should that test pass, the normal checksum check I mentioned earlier will take place, and if it fails that, it’s back to that blue-orange screen again. If it passes both of these checks, the game boots up normally.

Now here’s where it gets interesting. As I mentioned, software pirates are able to get through these initial checks with great ease. So Nintendo’s next line of defense comes up once you load up your saved game file. It runs another modification check,(Not a checksum, though. It just seems to be checking one variable to make sure it’s zero.) and if this test fails, it doesn’t stop the game, but instead it makes WAY more enemies appear! (See image to the left.) It’s a unique effort, to say the least. It makes the game very difficult and ultimately unenjoyable to scare off the software pirate. But hey, some gamers enjoy a challenge, which is where Nintendo’s last line of defense comes in.

When you get about halfway through the game’s final battle, the game performs one last checksum. But this time, if the test fails, it crashes the game. The screen freezes, and all you can do is turn the game off or press reset. But when you turn the game back on, you confront every gamer’s worst nightmare:

It wipes out your saved games! All the game progress you spent months or even years on goes down the drain and you’re forced to start back at square one! It’s a harsh move by Nintendo to stop cartridge copying, but in a way, shows what piracy does to a software company: it makes all their hard work count for nothing, since they won’t get any money from the illegal copies sold. Unfortunately for Nintendo, the software pirates found a way to track down all the anti-piracy checks and disable them. Copies of the game’s ROM (read-only memory) with crippled anti-piracy codes have been discovered around the internet.

The fight continues in the present day as software developers come up with new, seemingly foolproof ways to safeguard their hard work, but at the same time, software pirates will work just as hard to circumvent them. The war on software piracy continues, and most likely will as long as computer software is around.

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What shall I do?

Several days ago, I had a conversation with a friend from Japan. I asked about the situation there after the tsunami, she said, “The hopelessness is more terrible than the disaster. ”

She told me a story.

A man was in an important position to help save the town where his family lived.

When the disaster happened, he could either quit doing his job or go back home to save his wife. But in that case, more people’s lives would be claimed. He chose to stay in his position instead of going back home. His two children were evacuated and saved at school but his wife died. When he was talking on TV, he cried with guilt and shame. He felt like it was his obligation to stay and save the town, but he could not forgive himself.

A classic value debate topic is: is it justified to sacrifice one life to save a thousand? People have argued on this topic for thousands of years but are still not able to get an absolutely correct answer. It looks rational to sacrifice one life and save a thousand because a thousand is a larger number than one. However, what if the one person you sacrificed is able to find the vaccine for HIV and then change millions of human lives? What if you saved the thousand whom you’ve never known but sacrificed the love of your life? It looks ethical, but what will come to fill the sadness, darkness and emptiness in your heart? We cannot weigh lives the way we weigh vegetables. Ten pound tomatoes are worth more than one pound, but a life may not weigh less than a thousand. That’s where the confusion and anguish come from.

Situations that the Japanese man faced is a dilemma, a dilemma of life and death, a dilemma of morality and love for his family. He could not give up any of them but he had to.

I do not know how to answer a question like, if your mother and your children are drowning in a river, and you can only save one, whom will you save?I avoid looking for the answer because I don’t want headaches. The debate on this dilemma will never end. I wish I will never have to face dilemmas like this in life, but if I do, no matter what I choose, there will be a hole in my heart filled with sadness, and no one can explain the reason except my sign to myself: after all, this is a fallen world.

Wildfires Ravage the Lone Star State

Burn bans are currently in effect in 195 of the state’s 254 counties.

Governor Perry has sent a letter to President Obama asking for him to declare the state a major disaster area.

I have lived in Texas all of my life. I have experienced droughts and grass fires, but nothing to this magnitude.

I had been following the news, but didn’t realize just how bad the fires had gotten until last Thursday. I was outside, filming a local concert and noticed that I kept having to brush dust off of the camera and myself. That’s when I realized it wasn’t dust, it was ash. I looked up at the moon and noticed the brown haze.

“They have called for evacuation in Rotan,” I heard a man say.

Although the fires were at least thirty minutes away, it was like they were burning right down the road. The smell of burning grass and smokey haze continues to linger in the air.

Since then, I have been staying up to date with the latest news regarding the fires.

There are currently six blazes:

1. Cooper Mountain Ranch Fire (162,000 acres, 80% contained): Fisher, Kent, Scurry, Stonewall counties.

2. East Sidywnicks Fire (3,000 acres, 95% contained): Eastland County

3. Jackson Ranch Fire (2,270 acres, 50% contained): Stephens County

4. County Road Fire (1,400 acres): Eastland County

5. Possum Kingdom West/Possum Kingdom East/ Hohertz Fire (55,000 acres, 10% contained): Stephens, Palo Pinto counties

6. Swenson Fire (120,000 acres, 90% contained): Stonewall, Knox, King counties

Over 1.5 million acres and 244 homes have been ravaged by the fires. High winds, high heat, and low humidity continue to feed the flames and The Texas Forest Service says the weather will only continue to make conditions worse this week. The Texas Forest Service has sent teams to help the crews fighting the fires. Most of these firemen are volunteers.

Take the time today and everyday until the fires are extinguished to pray for all of the people affected and all of the men and women bravely fighting these blazes.

Why rumour spreads

The tsunami, earthquake and nuclear plant explosions in Japan are devastating. But some relevant information that is spreading quickly is more shocking to me. The other day, I read an article on one of my net pal’s blog. He forwarded it from a person, declaring that the nuclear pollution is actually caused by Japan’s atomic bomb test. At the beginning of the article, the author gave the source of the news: PhoenixTV.

PhoenixTV is one of the most famous TV stations in Hong Kong which is considered one of the most relatively objective news sources in China. To confirm the information, I searched their news website.

Japan’s earthquake was on the front page and is presented as special coverage with lots of reports. I searched carefully, and did not find anything about Japan’s nuclear bomb test. I searched “Japan’s atomic bomb test” on google and found out the information and analysis of this “atomic test” are all from personal blogs, which none of the mainstream media has reported.

Dongsheng Li, one of my net pals, forwarded the article. “I swear I will never buy Japanese products,” He commented, “I will never need Japanese products, no matter whether I live or die.”

“PhoenixTV never reported that Japan is having atomic bomb tests. The source is wrong.” I texted Li.

“I have knowledge on military affairs. You need to know better.” Li said. He avoided my point.

“I am not a scientist, but I study journalism. I know how to distinguish false news from the truth according to its source.” I replied.

We started arguing. My point was this information is not from any reliable source, and actually, the person who wrote it lied about the source. I didn’t think a person that lied about the source in order to add credibility to themselves could be objective.

Li did not confront my question at all. All he said was that Japan definitely has the ambition to make their own atomic bombs. Li did not argue with me about the credibility of the source, but kept avoiding my question and only focusing on his assumption.

“The information is too sensitive. They will not let journalists know.” This is Li’s most shocking statement about why the mainstream media did not report it.

The article Li forwarded looks rational. The author used a lots of terminologies and pictures to illustrate his opinion. The thing is, ordinary citizens have no idea about these terminologies and science theories. That’s just like fictional story created in a imaginary context. In the context the author creates, things make sense, and yet they are not true.

Japan invaded China during the World War II. China built several museums to remember the war. In China, every student learns about the war in schools. The hatred from history still exists, and that leads to an important reason why rumor spreads.

One reason that rumor prevails is that it gives people what they want, or it confirms people’s imagination. As long as someone presents the information with the six elements of news, and it fits people’s appetite, it spreads quickly.

Critical thinking skills are important to individuals. Unfortunately, most people don’t think rationally and objectively because doing so requires energy, time, and may even cause anguish and exhaustion. However, without thinking rationally and independently, people will be always following their feelings, create false emotions and make bad decisions.

What Does A Government Shutdown Mean?

I’ve been following the debates in Washington that could lead to a government shutdown by the end of today.

For those who haven’t been following the news, here is an update.

Someone asked me, “What does this actually mean? The country can’t actually stop everything, right?”

To be honest, I didn’t have an answer, but this perked my “journalistic ears.” I begin looking into it and found an interesting article about the last time the government had a major shutdown for 21 days back in 1996. Here’s a link to the story from Miller-McLune.

So what did I find out? What should we expect?

While most government officials aren’t even sure who would still have to report to work, there are a few that we can be assured will stay working, according to Miller-McLune:
• Air traffic controllers
• Deployed troops
• Airport TSA screeners
• The U.S. Mint
• Federal prison guards
• Congress and the Office of the President
• The Treasury
• The Postal Service
• The Border Patrol and Coast Guard

It’s still pretty clear that millions will be pained by potential shutdown. There are some issues that I think will have some major impacts among the “common folk.”

The IRS will not process any paper returns during this time. This will affect me personally. I had to make a change to my tax return and the IRS required I submit it through the mail. Now I am stuck wondering when my check will come. As a broke college student, this bums me out a little.

Also, living in a military town  brought about another issue has been buzzing among some of my enlisted friends. US troop’s pay could be delayed. I have many friends that are supporting families solely on their military wages.  What will they do without their check?

The Federal Housing Commission will suspend loans. Small businesses and homeowners would be denied loans for a certain time.

Social Security and Medicare would continue working, although medical research would be halted.

The list could go on.

Until the deadline, stay updated with the government’s progress towards a compromise through CNN’s live blog.

Food Optimists

The ACU Locavore Club will host the Just Food Fair at ACU’s Moody Coliseum with renowned author Joel Salatin.

The Just Food Fair is intended to help students and ACU discover how locally grown food systems can benefit particular aspects of agriculture, community, culture and the body. Educating students and ACU about the Locavore Club philosophy is the goal of the Just Food Fair.

The philosophy of the Locavore Club is “to promote the health, environmental, social and spiritual benefits of locally-grown food, and to participate in sustainable, small-scale agricultural systems,” according to the club Facebook page. The fair will host a farmer’s market from 4:30-6:30 pm tonight.

“The Just Food Fair is a more equal and just system to produce and consume food,” said Jon Camp, assistant professor of communications.

Matthew Hale, senior communications major from Uvalde serves as president of the Locavore Club. Hale said that the ACU Dining Services are more open to the thought of switching to the Locavore philosophy than he thought. Hale believes the switch in philosophy is a choice of morality.

“Real food truly nourishes producers, consumers, communities and the earth,” Hale said.

Joel Salatin, a Virginia farmer and author of You Can Farm, will be the featured speaker. Salatin raises livestock at Polyface, Inc using natural methods for feeding and production of meat. Salatin made an appearance in the 2008 documentary film, Food, Inc. examining commercial farming.

“He’s a real crazy farmer guy,” Hale said.

Salatin and the Locavore Club ate at Bonterra Blu in Clyde last night where Chef Joel Trublood has a similar food production philosophy as the Locavore Club, according to Hale. Dinner is $50 per plate with all proceeds going to the Locavore Club. Locavore members served tables and had a maxed capacity.

In the middle of the Just Food Fair, Salatin will speak during a 2-credit Chapel forum from 5-6 pm. He will sign autographs until 6:30 pm. The World Famous Bean will be offering an organic meal option for dinner. The meal will cost two meal plans.

Salatin’s final stop will be in the Brown Library Atrium for a coffee house discussion where Salatin and a 6-7-farmer panel will discus farming philosophy and local farming missions.

“No Sir, They’re Just Wire Cutters!”

Have you ever put “weird laws” into Google? If not, you should definitely try it sometime. There are hundreds of strange, weird, odd and flat-out dumb laws out there. It’s a fun thing to do if you have some down time.

You will come across some real funny stuff. For example, it is illegal to run out of gas in Youngstown, Ohio.  People who make “ugly faces” at dogs will be fined in Oklahoma.  You may not bathe without clothing from neck to knee in Oregon. All birds have the right-of-way on all highways in Utah. It is even illegal to pretend that your parents are rich in the state of Washington.

Where do these seemingly silly laws come from? Well, it turns out that most of these unusual rules were actually enforced in the past. Most of these laws were made many years ago. The laws were simply over-looked and never taken out of law, so they stayed, leaving us with a lot of laughs. Think about it, what horrifying event happened that made it illegal to whistle underwater in Vermont? Sometimes the “why” is funnier than the “what.”

So does Abilene have any weird laws of its own? It sure does!

There are two laws that Abilene has that makes you wonder. The first one is: it is illegal to carry wire cutters in your pocket. I think it is safe to assume that this law came into being when Abilene was mostly farm land. Still, it’s an interesting thing to think about and has probably been broken thousands of times.

The second weird Abilene law is: it is illegal for anyone to loiter within corporate city limits for the purpose of flirting. Something must have gone terribly wrong for such a specific law. Every time I think of this law I try to imagine the worst possible situations that made this activity illegal, but I just can’t come up with one.

So there you have it, two no-no’s to avoid when headed to work today. Before you walk into the building, please check your pockets. And be sure you mind your manners during lunch break.

It’s an Irreversible Revolution

In Feb 20, the first nation-wide demonstration in China happened since 1989.

1989, after the tanks crushed young students’ dreams of reformation, the Tiananmen Square massacre became the deep cut inside the nation’s heart, ruthlessly hidden, covered, ignored and lied about.

Nevertheless, memories of blood can never be wiped off.

From yesterday, Words like “Jasmine,” “Jasmine revolution,” “KFC” and “Wangfu Jin” have been blocked in many big web sites, both in English and Chinese. Anonymous sources posted information online and organized this national protest. Thousands of internet users from several major cities in China like Beijing, Shanghai, Harbin etc., responded the call and gathered in public.

“We want to end the time of the party monopoly. We want freedom of speech and democracy,” two young men replied when they were interviewed by a journalist. After the journalist had gone, police took the two men to the Yunnan Road Police Station nearby.

Some activists have been detained. The number of people who have been detained is not known.

During the protest, people spread Jasmine petals into the crowd. The police were irritated and started chasing and beating them, until journalists gathered to take pictures and question the police, “Why are you beating them for no reason?”

What’s happening in China is not surprising to me at all. When Tunisia first started protesting to corruptive government, I waited for the same thing to happen in China. In Tunisia, a college student burnt himself; in China, several self-immolation cases have happened last year, mostly because of the government’s violent demolition of their houses. Severe inflation, unemployment and the gap between the rich and poor can not be ignored anymore. Cheating, lying and bullying are the main trends of society. Chinese people are living without hope and dignity. Since the Internet in China is strictly restrained, or say “harmonized,”people uses codes to express ideas. Chinese Internet users created words like “democrazy,” “freedamn,” to express their anger to the government control.

Anger is like a long-rested volcano bursting out of its outlet.The February 20th’s Jasmine Revolution in China is not the end of the Chinese people’s calling for democracy. When the white Jasmine petals are spread to the people with its fragrance of democracy, many people believe that this is an irreversible revolution that will not be ended.

 

Pharmicist’s mistake threatens life

I consider myself a trustworthy person. I guess I could even say I trust too easily. I used to think there was some people that you could trust no matter what. Your teacher, your doctor, a police officer, just to name a few.

The other day I came across a news article about pharmacists giving customers the wrong prescription. “Wow,” I thought. “I never second guess my pharmacist, sometimes I don’t even check the bottle.”

I continued to research the topic, there were many cases of prescription mess-ups. One of the most appalling mistakes caught my eye.

Safeway Pharmacist gives pregnant woman abortion medicine

The headline made me sick. Fortunately the lady was ok, the baby is still alive, although any deformities or other health problems could possible appear after the birth.

I began to wonder what the pharmacist would do in this situation. In this certain case, the pharmacist tried to help after the fact. After the woman recovered, Safeway submitted a letter of apology.

I think everyone agrees when I say, “”Sorry doesn’t fix it.”

So I write this as a warning, while this big of a mess-up might not happen to you, take precaution when going to the  pharmacy. Remember, that everyone makes mistakes, even a medical professional.