A New Age

Politicians talk of the New Age,

No more

    Colonialism

Peace, Growth, Humanity: the new values.

Rebuild on foreign soil -

    oil

the rusty mechanisms of the past.

Keep money in banks.

Leaders keep them safe.

They use

    Words as Weapons

War as last resort, they say

  “Let’s keep the peace”

Yes. Lets.

    To exploit

the best in man.

    Third World workers

need our help to be First World citizens.

More words from Politicians,

    What does it all mean?

And while we’re at it,

read between the lines.

 

Memories

Footprints in the sand;

There and back again.

Random steps make history,

Art,

Interpretations then philosophy.

Washed away by waves

Timeless but unsaved

Spread outside ourselves.

Mysteries lie ahead, the past lies beneath

Covered by new sediment -

Sentiments -

Then we go to sea.

 

Article Published in the Culture-ist!

Check out my article, “Hungry for Faith, Building an Identity: Fasting as an American Born Muslim,” in the Culture-ist magazine here.

The article was inspired by my desire to take a closer look at my faith and identity, and to begin writing about it from my perspective. My hope is to educate others about the Muslim-American experience, and to do some learning along the way. I plan to write more posts about Ramadan, as well as Hajj, in the near future, especially if this seems to be a topic that interests readers. Like always, feel free to leave your comments, questions, or suggestions on my blog or email. I love to write about many topics, so if anything seems to be particularly popular, I’ll try to hit on it more often in my posts.

Nevermore

A short poem I wrote out tonight. Enjoy!

 

Oh, this state of Nevermore!

Whose barren lands I do deplore,

Explored in a time now long forgot,

It takes for granted that for which we have fought.

Broken and bought are the fat cats these days,

Who pay their way through the political fray.

“End the madness!” Poverty implores.

 

Blood spills in the Theater of War!

The show must go on! Encore! Encore!

Gunfire,screams, a child with no home;

All the same for the unthinking drone.

Technology continues to weaves its web,

Yet they steal the Spider’s venom instead.

“‘Tis for freedom,” they assure.

 

Curse this state of Nevermore!

‘Tis peace and love we must restore!

Bring our sons and daughters back,

With words and votes a swift attack.

Remove the veil of ignorance,

Put in place by hateful politics.

Bring forth change to the core,

Of this sickened state of Nevermore.

Education, Environment, and Global Awareness; featuring the blog, teacher monika!

I have to admit, I got a little behind- about two or three weeks- on this post due to apartment searching, #transferstudentproblems, course registration, and other boring and unimportant life steps. I have, as of now, finally pushed through the tomfoolery to bring you this post.

As any of you who use WordPress will know- and if you do not, I highly recommend checking this out- there is something called “Reader,” which displays a vast array of blogs on many a topic. Whilst utilizing “Reader,” and, in particular, a section so aptly named “Recommended Blogs,” I came across a blog entitled “teacher monika.” Miss. Monika Stahlstrom, the owner of the blog, is currently Teaching on Call in the Delta School District in BC, Canada. Her teaching interests, which are listed on the About page of her blog, include “greening” classrooms; engaging learners who are passionate and curious; building a learning environment where everyone is encouraged to try, and to learn from success as well as failure; and involving herself in the learning process. International experience is another item in Miss. Stahlstrom’s repertoire which I found to be fascinating and highly important. She helped design curriculum, including a Marine Environmental Program, train educators, and coordinate volunteers for two schools in Mombasa, Kenya. She also completed a practicum in an ELL classroom in Xi’An, China. To top it off, if her international work and education goals didn’t already grab your interest, Miss. Stahlstrom enjoys “Battlestar Galactica, Tolkien, coffee and a really, really good quotation.”

The reason I have decided to feature Miss. Stahlstrom’s blog this week, aside from her punny sense of humor, is my passion for education. Yes, yes, I know I have many interests (as seen on my About page), but education is definitely one of my top ten. The value of education is not just in the material itself. It is in the experience. My high school U.S. History teacher (shout out to Michael Torney, wherever you are) told our class that, “You may not remember every date, name, or event that you learn in this class. What you will remember are the friends you make, those lessons that really inspired you, that field trip that  made your weekend, and the teachers that make a difference in your life.” Now, this is a very, very rough quotation, and to some it may sound like my teacher was Robin Williams in “Dead Poets Society” (fantastic movie), but you can get the general idea of it. Education involves grabbing a learner’s attention, letting them know that it is okay to fail sometimes, encouraging them to open their mind and use their creativity, pushing them to be themselves and chase what they love, and so much more. I very much appreciated the fact that Miss. Stahlstrom continues to include herself in the learner category, as well. In my opinion, keeping an open mind and always trying to learn new things is one of the most important aspects of being a “great” teacher. Life is full of new challenges, new people, and so much beauty and information that it is impossible to be the best that you can be, without realizing that you must also be a good student.

Global awareness and environmental education provide the final connection between the title of this post and “teacher monika.” In this increasingly globalized world, awareness of foreign values and cultures is invaluable. Traveling, studying abroad, and even classroom discussions work to broaden one’s perspectives, break down cultural barriers, remove ignorance, and deliver exciting experiences that one would not normally encounter. There is also nothing like the feeling of learning a foreign language, and practicing with native speakers. Whether you are a student, educator, or tourist, international travel can be one of life’s most fun and rewarding adventures. Knowledge of the world around us is also critical to the success of future generations. Not everyone needs to have a scientific knowledge of biology, zoology, botany, or the likes, but everyone should learn about how our actions as human beings can affect the living world around us. It can be as simple as learning why recycling is important, or how pollution damages humans and animals alike. Children can be taught with creative activities to build their interest in, and awareness of, issues such as recycling, over fishing or hunting, pollution, gardening, and green methods. Adults can read books and papers, attend courses, and propose workable green solutions for businesses and governments. The world around us is full of amazing animals, spectacular plant-life, and an abundance of breathtaking and intricate interrelations. We all live together on this planet, and we should all do our part to take care of it.

If you have not already, make sure to check out “teacher monika” and other cool WordPress blogs. Within the next several weeks I’m hoping to post a couple pieces of creative content (photography, poems, movie reviews, etc.), post a possible article about my storm chasing experience last summer, as well as write an article or two for the Culture-ist magazine. Thanks again for reading, and for all of you in the US, have a wonderful Fourth of July weekend!

Writing Tips: Essays and Research

This week, I have decided to put together some strategies that I have learned, and used, for writing essays and research papers. The guide is in no way meant to be comprehensive, just a short collection of tips that you may find useful when writing your own papers. If you haven’t already noticed, this post is categorized in the writing section of Tutorials and Tips. I plan to post, through video and text, a variety of tutorials in different subjects, so these categories will make it easier to find posts about specific topics. Now, without further ado, on to the guide!

  •  Understand your topic and goal. This one sounds like a no-brainer: of course you need to know what you’re writing about. The problem, though, isn’t knowing that you are writing about, say, the president. That much is simple. What I mean by understanding your topic and goal is recognizing that you are writing a paper regarding the legal implications of a plan, proposed by the president, in light of United States Constitutional Law, and that your approach to the paper will be different than a study of the president’s overall health throughout his term. Understanding through which field you will be approaching the problem will help you discover the proper research tools to add to your arsenal. Additionally, understanding the goal of the paper- namely length, writing style, who it is for, etc.- will allow you to better plan the overall flow of your paper, your method of citation, your timeline, and who you choose to review your drafts.
  • Ask Questions. Do not be afraid to ask your professors questions about a paper, especially if it is your first time writing one in a particular style. Even if you do not think your professor is happy about legitimate questions (in that case, he or she probably should not be teaching), it is better to ask than to have points deducted for incorrect citations, incorrect style, improper sources, and other things of that nature. Writing in a new way can be challenging, so ask for help if you need it, especially if the problem in question is not answered in a syllabus or assignment handout.
  • Watch your citations. I know I’ve mentioned this topic a couple of times already, but I cannot state the importance of citations enough. In addition to giving other scholars and authors their due credit, citation style is important because different professors and different journals might have a different requirement for how to setup your works cited. Don’t lose points for something as simple as a formatting issue. Find out the required format, if there is one, and make sure to follow it in your paper.
  • Find proper sources. Make sure that you are using legitimate and useful sources. When writing a paper, accumulating a list of possible sources, with a short description of how you are going to use each source, can be a good plan of attack. A good way to find scholarly information is to use academic journals and databases. If you are a university student, and in some cases, a public library card owner, odds are you have access to a host of academic journals and publications through databases such as Academic Search Premier and JSTOR. Ask a professor or librarian about how to find and access these databases if you are unsure. Newspapers, books published by nonacademic organizations, magazines, websites, and other such sources are often used to describe certain events or organizations, present statistical data, and show public opinion, but caution must be used as these sources may not be peer reviewed, and may be more interested in business and ratings than overall accuracy. Almost always, when presenting scientific data or conducting research, you will be sifting through peer reviewed academic papers and books.
  • Revise and review. Revision and peer review are two of the most important tools for constructing a well written paper. Upon reviewing your initial draft, you may find that your conclusion was actually the introduction you had been searching for, or that you wrote most of your sentences in a passive, not active, voice, or that you tagged all of your explanations at the end of your paragraphs, which is usually a sign that a better explanation or connection to the thesis needs to be made. Sometimes, actually, make that all of the time, an outside perspective is all you really need to work out the major kinks in your work. After every draft, maybe even after you write your introduction or first few paragraphs, have a peer, a favorite professor, or even an acquaintance read through your paper. Ask them to note grammatical and spelling errors; have them note what they believe your paper will be about after reading your introduction and thesis; make sure they mark whether or not your paper was easy to follow, and that your evidence and explanations were adequate; and, last but not least, ask them if the paper sounded like you wrote it. Trust me, as depressing as it is to see a page covered in red ink, it is even more depressing to see a poor grade circled in red ink. After all, you are writing your paper for the audience to understand and enjoy, so it is important to get a few people to point out possible areas of improvement. It is also important to not let another person’s voice take over your paper. You are putting in the work for your masterpiece, so you need to make the final decisions about which changes to make, and how to make them.
  • Research all relevant sides. If you write an argument, whether legal, moral, or otherwise, it is imperative that you research all relevant points of view, especially the viewpoints that oppose your own. As my philosophy teacher told me, “how can one claim to take a side, if they have not thoroughly researched the issue?” Tackling the various sides of an issue will enlighten you with a richer understanding of the topic, and will provide you with a means of making a more solid argument: taking on the opposition within your paper. Peter Singer, a contemporary ethicist, does an excellent job of addressing opposing viewpoints within his arguments, which is why I suggest looking up some of his works, including “All Animals are Equal.” While you may not agree with what he writes about, I know there are times I don’t, his works are full of examples of how to intelligently address opposition within an argument.
  • Read. The cliche phrase that all writers, English teachers, and librarians throw at you when you ask how to improve your writing ability. While many of us, myself included, have often rolled our eyes upon hearing this suggestion, it really is a brilliant piece of advice. There truly is no better way to gain inspiration for a fictional work, or to learn how scientific writing is formatted, than to read a book, poem, or in the latter case, a paper. For example, to find examples of how to write out beautiful definitions and examples for philosophy and arguments, you may look to the works of Kant, Aristotle, or Descartes. In order to better address opposing viewpoints, as I suggested in the last paragraph, you might read one of Singer’s essays. To get an idea of how scientists, art history scholars, or other academics style their papers, cite their sources, or incorporate evidence, you could browse articles in an academic journal or skim a scholarly book. No matter what you are writing, it is important to read. Just be cautious. You do not want to end up writing in another person’s style. You are an individual with your own unique voice, use it.

I’m thinking of writing individual posts discussing the different parts of writing a paper in greater detail, so your thoughts on this short “guide” will be very much appreciated. If you have any comments, questions, or requests, please comment below or send me an email (directly or through the contact form on the “Contact Me” page). I may have another post up this weekend, so check back tomorrow! Hope you’re all having a great weekend!

New website!

As you have probably noticed, I have decided to move my blog from Blogger to WordPress. Although there are multiple reasons behind this move, my main motivation was an interest in trying something new- and I just kind of like using WordPress more. I know the news of a website move, albeit important (albeit is a very fun word), isn’t all that interesting, so I’ve decided to talk about some other things too. For instance, as I continue to delve into the vast array of new blogging tools, I will be able to categorize all of my posts. While this may not sound all that exciting, except to those who love even the idea of organization, such as my girlfriend (she’ll appreciate this), categorizing my posts means that you will be able to search them by subject. Instead of trekking through a seemingly endless list of posts about chickens, only to find that my review of the new Transformers movie was, in fact, at the top of the list, readers can simply select the “reviews” category to see a list of all the reviews I have written. (Note: While I do find chickens to be very amusing, I doubt that my blog will ever feature an endless list of chicken related posts. I apologize to any chicken lovers I may have lead on).

I am currently working on getting some new content up, including a short story, some photography, reviews, essays, etc, so check back throughout the week for any updates. I’m also debating whether or not to migrate posts over to this blog. If anyone has any thoughts on that, as always, feel free to leave comments below. As I start adjusting to the new site and posting new content, make sure to subscribe (using the button in the right-hand sidebar) and to check out my list of awesome blogs and websites, which has the fitting title of “Awesomeness.” Remember, you are the people reading the content. If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions, please comment on the blog or shoot me an email: nbashqawi@gmail.com. I hope you all enjoy the new look as much as I do. Thanks for reading!