Sunday, December 30, 2007

2007 In Review

New Year's is a relatively arbitrary time point. Still, it has its uses. Large numbers of people take advantage of their inability to remember what number to date checks with as a chance to improve themselves. As anyone who reads this blog knows by now, I'm not working for a standard set of New Year's resolutions, but am in a multi-year plan of accomplishing things. I should be at roughly 36 of the items completed by now. Let's see where I stand:

Things definitely completed:

#4. My committee has been formed, and even met with.
#6. I had a poster at this year's Gordon Research Conference on Microbial Population Biology.
#7. I'm not required to take any more classes for my PhD. I might sit in on a few more, but no more are required.
#10. I'm hoping to make this an even more permanent habit, but the lab notebook was followed rigidly for a month.
#12. The Army ROTC requirements are done. Easily the hardest were the 42 pushups.
#13. My best mile is now 5:59.
#14. A 5 mile run is unpleasant, but has been done. Only once, thus far.
#15. I've bench pressed my own weight repeatedly, but the first was 155 when I weighed 152.
#17. The website allowed me to track everything I ate for a week. I realized I needed to start eating more. Not what I was hoping to hear, but oh well.
#20. I feel I know how to play racquetball now. Jeff is once again beating me regularly, in large part due to having a better racquet than his old one, but I no longer feel incompetent at it.
#22. Yay for handiness, I now have a nice soft black scarf.
#38. I had a very pleasant date with a guy I hope I'll be seeing again, if he's not too upset with me.
#41. I saw the sunrise the night/morning I was reading the 7th Harry Potter book.
#45. I got to see the Perseid meteor shower while visiting my Dad in southern Canada, well out of any major light dome. There's something to be said for lying down in a hot tub at the beach watching meteors.
#59. By buying a book of NY Times crossword puzzles and looking for one that didn't require me to know many proper names of celebrities and/or athletes, this wasn't too onerous.
#62. A cousin's wedding in MA this summer filled the travel requirement.
#64. Yeah, yeah, it'll increase my risk of skin cancer, etc. I didn't burn, and actually getting tan meant a lot of time out in the sun, reading. It was enjoyable.
#65. I've started getting my hair cut at the training studio for the local fancy place. I go in and tell them I want something shorter than it is while being cut while also being very low maintenance. They've consistently given me a very well-done version of...the same hairstyle I've been kind of sporting since I was 10.
#67. Origami flowers are flowers nonetheless.
#68. There are several possible calls for this one. I'm now considering it to be the Julie Moffitt CDs I gave my Dad for Christmas, as he loves her music and I know her from college and thus want to support her music career. Win-win.
#73. I watched a live-action version of Wind in the Willows on Masterpiece Theatre. It was annoying watching British men in suits pretend to be toads and rats and whatnot, but part of the annoyance was probably due to my not liking the story line.
#78. I again reference the Julie Moffitt CDs.
#81. The Summer Circle Theatre had some fun plays, and were free to boot. Woot.
#84. There have been several high school friends I'd lost touch with who I've written to this year--primarily Mike D, Kathleen, and Anna.
#86. My IRA is now a real investment vechicle.
#87. The first jigsaw of the year was a circular undersea fantasy.
#88. Being practical is sometimes good, so the basement's organized.
#89. I didn't eat any of the chocolate chip cookies I made at Christmas.
#90. My brother now has even more financial motive to kill me beyond merely not diluting his inheritance from my Dad.
#94. I'm past the 30 mark in blog entries, though admittedly not by a lot.
#95. The verdict: silly, but not as silly as I expected to look with facial hair.
#101. Yay for good credit.

That's 32 definite completions. Now let's take a look at some arguable ones:

#1. I need to have written a scientific paper. I've done a lot of work updating an article for the Encyclopedia of Evolution for the new edition, adding some new studies to it, reworking some of the old ones. I'll get an authorship credit for this, in addition to my advisor (who wrote the first edition of this article and has also done a lot of editing for it, both on his old work and on my additions).

#27. This site isn't for a class, but I've done very little on the building end of it. So maybe?

#37. There is no official Boggle association. I've been playing on Facebook, where I got myself into the top 1% of players. Some people I've talked with about this call that a good enough substitution; others disagree.

#44. Some friends and I drove an hour and a half to go to a David Sedaris reading. Is that far enough to be a road trip?

#97. I've added information to several Wikipedia articles, but never written one from scratch.

So, that's 5 more arguable ones. I've also got some large ones partially done, so I think overall I'm pretty much on track.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Immigrations and schools

Recent list work: 9 (done with stats. Whoo!), 38 (yay), 37 (arguably)

This piece from the NY Times caught my eye today. It concerns the educational challenges of illegal immigrants. As the article points out, since a 1982 Supreme Court case, public schools have had to accept and educate illegal immigrants through high school, but that requirement stops at college.

Let me start off by saying that I call a spade a spade. I don't like the term "undocumented", because it glosses over the face that people who do not have visas or citizenship are in this country illegally. If you immigrate to a country without following that country's laws on becoming a citizen or leaving by the end of your visa, you have immigrated illegally. Hence, you are an illegal immigrant. That does not make you evil, it does not necessarily make you a bad person, but it is a description of your legal status which isn't euphemistic.

That being said, I have a lot of sympathy for individuals who immigrated as children, regardless of whether that immigration was legal or not. At the age of 6, no one should be expected to understand international law. If we agree that you're not old enough to be legally responsible for crimes like murder and theft, which are generally pretty obviously wrong, it is not reasonable to expect you to responsible for moving somewhere with your parents or aunt or whatever. This seems like common sense to me.

I dislike that the federal Congress has passed a law barring states from offering in-state college tuition to illegal immigrants. This does not seem to me to be the job of the federal government. I don't believe states should be required to offer such tuition discounts, but I don't think they should be barred from it either. I applaud the states which have found ways around this, most notably by basing in-state tuition on having graduated from a school in that state rather than a legal residence.. The only problem I foresee with that is for people who take time off between one graduation and the next enrollment, and potentially move across a state line in the interim. I imagine there must be a way around this.

Fundamentally, I think something needs to be done about giving children who were brought to this country illegally a path to citizenship. I'm not sure what the best plan is, though. Making a bright-age-line is the immediate idea, whereby you could gain citizenship if you immigrated illegally before age X, but not if you were older. The problem with that is that the most logical age, legally, is 18, and I find that troublesome. It seems like that would encourage a lot of 17 year olds to sneak across the border, as they'd be old enough to realize the tremendous advantages that come with US citizenship. But what age would be fair? 14? 12? 16? I don't know.

Then there are issues related to the effects this would have on legal immigration. As it is, for instance, it's easier to gain legal immigration rights if you have close relatives who are citizens--most notably, spouse, parent, or child. If we grant citizenship to children brought here illegally, we would be increasing the probability that their parents would then be granted citizenship, so we would in effect be giving an advantage to someone who broke the rules for others as well as themselves. You'd be more likely to be allowed to stay permanently if you smuggled additional people across the border. That's not right. But, at the same time, I like the idea of equality before the law for all citizens. It would strike me as very much against the notions of equality to say, for instance, that legal citizens who earned their citizenship after being brought here illegally as children are *not* allowed to use their citizenship to help bring their parents in, which other legal citizens are.

I don't know what's to be done. Moreso than most political hot-buttons, I feel this issue is inherently complex. On the one hand, fully open borders are not a viable solution, as feel-good as that solution might seem; the prosperity of our country would simply attract more people than we can truly afford to let in, and our quality of life would drop by too much for that to be feasible. On the other hand, our quality of life would also drop if we sealed all of our borders entirely. Our country attracts many highly educated and skilled workers from India, China, South Korea, and the industrialized world. We bring in a lot of hard workers from Latin America, many of whom are unfairly branded with stereotypes about lazy Mexicans. Our agriculture depends in large part on unskilled migrant farm labor, and many of our unpleasant service jobs in food service, sanitation, meat packing, etc are filled by immigrants because few citizens are willing to take those jobs for what they pay. For the most part, immigrants come here to stay, and people who are willing to travel long distances in search of a better life are the sort of people you want to have on your side. It's clear to anyone thinking about this issue rationally that a balance needs to be struck. What I'm unclear on is where that balance should be.