Monthly Archives: February 2013

So Spain is Actually a Snoozefest


Wouldn’t you love it if that was an integral part of American culture?

Unfortunately, we Americans tend to be more of the work-a-holic, eat-and-go, fly-by-the-seat-of-our-pants.  However, in the summer months when the sun is just too hot and my body starts to snooze and grow weary, I welcome the siesta like any good Spaniard would.

Siesta, arising from the latin words hora sexta, meaning the sixth hour, is traditionally taken quite literally at the sixth hour after dawn.  In other words, a siesta is a midday, after-lunch nap.  While true, the siesta is usually a part of cultures that feature warmer-than-usual temperatures (i.e. Spain in the summer), it also is prevalent in cultures that feature a heavy midday meal, and such is the case in European lifestyles as well.  Of course, this creates the perfect conditions for a nap!

Traditionally, early afternoon would allow shops to shut down temporarily, and people would rest with friends and family.  However now, especially with Spanish economy on the decline, many people are swapping extra hours of work for siestas.  Unsurprisingly, in our increasingly fast-paced world, this cultural tradition is for the most part on the decline.  However, there are scientific and research-backed reasons as to why siestas should remain a good idea when possible; for example, researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, argue for the biological and neurological benefits, such as improved memory, of the brain-boost that is napping.  Of course, such benefits are not only for the traditionally Spanish two hours of shut-eye; instead, even just 20 minutes of snoozing in a library Knowledge Commons chair can leave you feeling refreshed and ready to learn.

And so, next time time your eyelids are drooping and the sun is beating, make like the Spaniards do and enjoy some quality siesta-time.  The tradition isn’t dead yet, and after all, doesn’t our over-working provide a good enough excuse? Buenas noches, amigos!

American Education, or American+Foreigners Education?

For my last Civic Issues post, I entwined my topic of choice, Education, with another CI topic – that time, gender.  I think it is important as well as fascinating to explore how the different CI topics relate to each other, so this week I delved into what diversity in education looks like, specifically the issue (or non-issue) of foreign students in higher education.  The presence of these students are harmless, if not beneficial, to many; however, others argue that foreign students’ ability to take American spots in college (and later, possibly the work force) should be monitored or capped.  With all our nation’s talk about immigration reform, I found the system of foreign students’ integration into American society enlightening as well as question-raising.

First off, the facts, because most are probably unaware of the process of the roughly 760,000 foreigner‘s enrollment in U.S. universities, such as our own.  Students must obtain a visa – as a means of permission, almost – in order to study here. However, this specific document (an F-1 visa) holds implications that the students will return to their home countries after their period of study, and they actually must try to prove they will return as a means of acquiring the ticket to U.S. education.  However, it is indeed possible for the graduating student to upgrade his/her F-1 to a temporary work visa that is valid for up to 12 additional months.  Still, many students hope to score the H-1B – the work visa.  Herein lies the controversy, for while some are unhappy with foreigners scooping up the already-scarce American jobs, others argue that bright, foreign students are necessary to America staying ahead (echoing the Option 1 of the in-class Education Deliberation, eh?).  President Obama himself has stated, in regards to foreign students becoming American workers, that “In the global marketplace, we need all the talent we cant attract… we don’t want the next Intel or the next Google to be created in China or India.  We want these companies and jobs to take root here.”  Many others share this sentiment, stressing that a large proportion of our country’s companies, innovations, and research discoveries – our country’s success, ultimately – was due to the talent of foreigners on American soil.

Of course, foreigners in the work force often begin as students of the American higher education system, and many colleges and universities share their diversity statistics with pride.  Institutions of higher education may market themselves on the basis of providing prospective students with a more holistic, global education and student body that only their international students provide – a facet that is becoming  increasingly desirable as our society itself continues to undergo globalization.  In my opinion, this too is valid, for I have often heard friends share how cool it was to hear the perspective of the foreign student in their class who can personally relate to class material in a way that Americans can’t.  In class, you and I also are learning the value of diversity of experience and opinion when deliberating certain issues.  However, while international students may be desired for these admirable reasons, there is something else at work here too: money.  Foreign students contribute $21 billion a year to the national economy, and most importantly, they contribute full tuitions.  No financial aid, no scholarships, no in-state tuition.  Colleges and universities are not required to give them anything.  Actually, some colleges actually charge them additionally fees, such as Purdue University’s $1000-$2000 fee. So then, foreigners become an economic advantage, for what exactly makes an American student worth thousands – or tens of thousands, even – of dollars? Beyond filling quotas, essentially nothing.

While there are many sides to the situation of foreign students at American institutions, some may beg the (stasis) question of Definition: is this a problem, even?  Is it so bad that in an increasingly global society, we are accepting global students – especially when we have no problem with studying abroad ourselves? What do you think – does the benefit outweigh the cost of denied entrance, either in college or the work force, of Americans?



A Moderating Philosophy

My moderating style – or what I believe it should be, rather – is inclusive.  An invitation, it is inviting and warm. It operates on the assumptions that all comments are safe and well-received, and it is sustained through fostering an environment of low tension and overall acceptance.  My moderating style holds little power, save only for hopefully drawing out thoughts from the silence of an outnumbered guy or a shy girl.  I aim to be mostly a mere calming smile – who can be inquisitive at times.  Absolutely no condescension. Idealistic? Perhaps.  But I believe that walls and presuppositions can only be knocked down with openness, and I even more strongly believe that these walls of stubbornness must go.

Why do I strive for such idealism? As a product of an environment surrounded by extreme partisanship (and bashing) that has ultimately left a sour taste, I have grown to have little tolerance for hard-headed one-sidedness.  It has shown to create theatrics and a universal us vs. them attitude – yet little else. To me, the term moderation lends itself to the idea that people must be moderate – at least in terms of an absence of non-negotiable, steel convictions. Beliefs are okay, but that’s just it. Beliefs are okay. I aim to avoid spirals of silences and overbearing opinions, again, most likely in rebellion of my at-times seemingly brainwashed family and some friends.  For this reason, my goal is the opposite: an anti-conflict environment in which each position or possibility is explored, regardless of whether those beliefs are shared by group members themselves or instead led into discussion by yours truly – the moderator.  Eventually, opinions may and should be formed, but only as long as group members are led to truly consider the options and implications.

Comida Parte Dos!

Last week, I brought you (well, not literally – sorry guys) the delicious delights of Spain, featuring tapas y sangria.  This week, I bring you the official dish of Spain: paella. A little help: say it like pie-EH-ya.



While last week I shot down hopes thoughts of Spanish food as our beloved nachos and enchiladas, this week I will tell you what typically Spanish food is. The truth is, Spanish food actually features a lot of fresh seafood – we are off the Mediterranean coast after all! And this seafood can play a big role in the dish of Spain; however, in reality, paella can consist of pretty much anything the cook desires.  Some reoccurring and popular ingredients, though, include chicken, pork, shellfish, fish, maybe some eel or squid, peans, peas, artichokes, peppers… the list goes on.  A consistent staple of paella, however, is the herb saffron, responsible for turning the rice base into a beautiful golden color.

Paella is traditionally cooked in a paella pan, or paellera – basically just a fancy name for an open, flat, and wide pan that can be used to cook the mixture over a fire (fun to do on a summer night over an open fire, eh??).  Use bomba rice – you know, next time you happen to find yourself in Levante, Spain and can pick some up – or you could just use any other kind of medium-grain rice for convenience’s sake.  Finally, you can decide from the three main versions of paella: traditional Paella Valenciana, Paella de Marisco, o Paella Vegetariana. You may easily identify the last one as the vegetarian option, but I am here to tell you that “de Marisco” means “seafood” – in this case, usually shrimp, clams, fish, and mussels – and the Valenciana version often includes rabbit, chicken, snails, beans, and artichokes. Because this one is the most traditional, here’s the recipe!! And get ready to rent out Simmons kitchen.





Upon reading the teaching philosophies, I found that I wanted to be a teacher.

Okay, I don’t want to be a teacher (at least the desire has not struck me yet), but I found that the good ones made me think, for just a second, that being a teacher would be the greatest thing like, ever.  What did it, I believe, was that the good philosophies had passion.  God, I love that stuff.  I’m an inspiration junkie, and nothing does that like someone who “has a love affair with”, “fell in love with”, or “feels a personal calling towards” whatever they are doing in life.  That said, I found that those who used this flowery language to describe their career in teaching in their philosophies were those professors of the humanities, and I suppose this cannot be a total surprise.  On the contrary, the philosophies expressed by the professor of landscape architecture or the professor of rural psychology seemed to have a more technical tone; this, also, may be just be a direct reflection of their passion towards the more technical fields, guided by more technical personalities.  And while I particularly loved the authenticity and passion expressed by the “flowery language professors”, it does not mean that the landscape architect loves his job teaching any less.  That said, I obviously enjoy the style of the professor of Philosophy and the professor of History in their teaching philosophies.

With all of these examples, though, is a similar format.  All seem to at least touch on a background of their relationship with teaching (some providing fun little anecdote of the passion uncovered as a child), as well as describing their class structure – both literally and in the sense of the class “feeling”.  The philosophies tell of each professor’s personal beliefs about teaching, and how they strive to convey these beliefs in the classroom – sometimes in order to create a specific experience for their students.  Finally, some professors adequately tie in their philosophy of teaching with their grander, broader philosophy of life.  I like this part especially, and while it may be harder/weirder to emulate with a philosophy of moderation, I do hope to incorporate some broader view and purpose of this specific task of moderating.

La Comida!

Come on, guys.  You know you’ve just been waiting for this one.  Tacos, enchiladas, nachos, GALORE. Sike.

Y’all are loco.  This is NOT Mexico.

One of the (sadly) most common misconceptions about Spanish food is that it is Mexican food.  But don’t you worry – Spanish food is still scrumptious, and you know what – it’s actually not usually as fatty in the process.  Sure, there’s your chorizo sausage and obsession with ham, but that’s as bad as it gets.  Although, this is real evidence of what a good Spanish meal can do to you

Just couldn't get enough of that dessert there.

Just couldn’t get enough of that dessert there.

Not only is the type of food different in Spain, but the manner in which people eat is different as well.  Spanish tapas are common, and they are small plates of food (kind of like appetizers) that people generally eat with a nice beverage. The design of eating tapas actually echoes Spanish sentiment regarding food, friends, and conversation; much like other parts of Europe, the small bite-sized, sharable portions of tapas are, in theory, supposed to encourage conversation and good company, as diners are not as preoccupied by a full plate of food to finish in front of them.  The origin of tapas may be a bit gross however; tapar literally means “to cover” in Spanish, and traditional tapas of simple bread and meat were used to “cover” eaters’ accompanying glass of sherry.  Cover the glass, why, you ask?  Oh, just from fruit flies.  Don’t you just hate it when those little buggers get in your drink?!

While I’m probably going to break the Spanish Food Extravaganza post into two (stay tuned for next week), I feel I should also take the moment to introduce another Spanish staple: sangria! For you folks out there totally unfamiliar with this delicious fruity, legal delight (thank you, European alcohol laws), sangria is, simply enough, chilled red wine jazzed and razzletazzed with fruit – usually orange, lime, apple, and berries.  Oh, and a dash of brandy.  Or maybe, Sprite/7Up instead if you don’t want to go too crazy.

Sweltering Madrid afternoon? Yes, please.

Sweltering Madrid afternoon? Yes, please.


Civil Issues Reflections

While I cannot admit I personally admit looking forward to my week creating a well-informed post, I do truly admit that I enjoy discovering just how informed my fellow classmates are becoming on their respective issues – and also how interesting they make it to share their new-found knowledge! They do require more preparation and research seeing as the best CI posts include different forms of media as well as links to different sources, but this extra work makes for a more engaging blog-reading experience.  Additionally, these Civic Issues posts and subsequent comments feel more like a conversation than any other sub-blog we’ve had, and that is definitely the most interesting part.  I actually look forward to being informed. And not just on some fun Passion topic.  These are real issues, and not only should we be informed, but we should have a medium to create conversation – deliberation is already happening!

What I particularly enjoyed about others’ blog posts that I hope to include more in my future ones is a specific tie-in from our lives (the lives of Freshman Penn State students) to the issue at hand.  Sometimes you read blogs that are informative, but that you ultimately leave thinking – Well, so what? This noted connection and relativity to students’ lives is essential, and the less-expected the connection is, the better.  Finally, in terms of what I plan my next CI posts to look like – an interesting thing happened with my first one.  While my CI blog post is about education, my first blog post addressed gender issues in education.  This, funnily enough, seemed to have confused people into thinking that my CI blog is on gender issues! But it did spark an idea – an idea I’m planning on playing around with.  What if I connect Education to any of the other Civic Issue topics, addressing a different one each time? Like I said, I’d have to play around with this, but I’d be interested to see how many more people I could confuse.