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Television: The Undiscovered Drug

After a long, hard day of school and work, I trudge up the stairs to my apartment. As I approach the door, I can already hear the mumbles of the television. I open the door and am not surprised to see my sister on the couch, hand on remote, flipping through channels. I am now accustomed to this picture. My sister could be crowned couch potato queen. She watches television day and night--so much that my cousins and I now refer to her as the Human TV Guide. She knows what's on at a specific time on a specific channel. She has the channels of different stations of different areas memorized. She could tell you what channel MTV is in Torrance. She could tell you what channel USA is in Rowland Heights. She could tell you what channel TNT is in Fullerton. My sister has memorized practically everything there is to know about television. Yet, she has difficulty memorizing the multiplication table, all due to the effects of watching television endlessly. Television has had a detrimental effect on many youths.

Television has dulled the mind of an average youth. Youths today is used to having their information passed to them on a silver platter. Not as many youths like to read anymore because it involves too much work. My sister hates to read, not only because there are words involved in that activity, but also because it is now impossible for her to visualize the world presented within the book. It is also impossible for her to focus on a book because of the short attention span she has developed, and reading books just takes too much time for her. Television presents the world to her, a different world every thirty minutes, which holds her attention. This now leaves her no mental work to do, except to decide which channel she would like to watch. Because watching television requires no mental work, the brains of the adolescents that watch televisions are not stimulated enough. This may lead to a slower learning process, which would then explain my sister’s inability to memorize the multiplication table.

Television consumes time youths should be dedicating to more important and more essential things in their lives. Television takes away time that should be devoted to homework. When my sister gets home from school, she will immediately flip the television on, leaving her homework for later. When she finally decides to do her homework, the television will remain on, and she will sit on the couch with her books propped up in front of her, giving it only half of her attention. Homework takes longer to complete, and it probably will not be her best work since only half of her concentration was focused on it. Television also takes time away from quality family time. Most adolescents do not have a strong family connection. Families whose only time together is at the dinner table will waste precious quality time with their heads turned towards the television. The youth of today lose the strong morals and values they can get when spending time with their family. Television can even take away time from friends. When I spend time with my friends, I like to talk with them or go out. When my sister spends time with her friends, they spend the whole day watching the television. Their conversation revolves around what they are watching on the television. Most teens have the majority of their day devoted to the television.

Television has exposed a world of violence, drugs, and sexual immorality to our youth, causing them to be apathetic towards these issues. Many television shows have made at least one of the three aspects, violence, drugs, and sexual immorality, a normalcy. The Simpsons` is a show that is enjoyed by many teens. This show depicts violence as something comedic. Regularly, in this show, the father chokes his son at least once, and the children watch a cartoon show called Itchy and Scratchy, in which a cat and mouse try to kill each other. Our youths today find this violence funny. When they encounter violence in real life, they do not consider it serious because they experience it everyday on the television. Characters in television show such as Married with Children smoke, and although there are commercials advertising against smoking more than ever, smoking on the television gives our youths a different message. This advertises for the cigarette companies for practically free. In The Drew Carey Show, all the main characters spend their free time in a bar drinking. They even make and sell their very own beer. Cheers` is another show that advocates drinking. Most of the show takes place in a bar. These characters in television shows have influence on our youth. Sexual immorality has also become common, which is exemplified by a show called Friends. Friends` depicts each of their characters as people who sleep around. Sex is an integrated part of their lives and is expected when any one of the characters have a significant other. Undeclared revolves around college life in which college students have sex with each other “just for fun.” Adolescents of today model their behavior after characters like these who live in worlds of violence, drugs and sexual immorality, and they do not realize that what they are doing is wrong because to our youth, whatever they see and hear on television is right.

When television was first invented, its purpose was to bring the family together and perhaps present a way in which we could receive information faster. In modern times, the television has managed to affect our youth in ways we would not have imagined. The family gathering concept has disappeared. We have accomplished a faster way to transmit information, but it was a little too much information a little too fast for the wrong audience. Television has taken over our way of life and we must stop the effects it has had on our youths and our society before it is too late.

A Necessary Spending

“Damn it!” My little brother cusses annoyingly as hot oil spurts out from the engine, misses the pan, and runs down his left arm. The scene is a mess. His 1989 Honda Accord is jacked up dangerously at an odd angle. Dirty rags and newspapers are scattered everywhere. A black toolbox is resting on its side, while big and small sockets are rolling all over the place. Oil from the spill is now drawing long dark streaks on the brand new driveway (he just had his driveway resurfaced a few weeks ago). My little brother has limited knowledge about automotive repair, but because he wants to save $20, the average cost to have the oil change done by a mechanic, he decides to tackle the task himself. However, if he had paid attention to see how his mechanic did it on his last visit to the shop, he would not be in such a mess as he is now. A passenger car needs oil change once every 3000 miles or so in order to keep the engine running smoothly. Mechanics do this task with ease, not only because they are better equipped, but also because they are well-trained automotive professionals. I personally think that he should just spend the $20 for this service at the shop, for it will be done the mechanics way – the only way.

The getting ready stage is quick and painless for an experienced mechanic. He drives the car up the hydraulic ramps. After setting the parking brake, he climbs out and sets the four wooden blocks against the four tires. Although this is not a necessary step, a good mechanic will do it anyway to ensure the safety of his co-workers, himself, and his customers, who may be standing close by to watch. Next, he opens up the hood, undoes the oil cap (air pressure will help the oil to drain out more easily), then raises the car to where it is a few inches above the top of his head. This way, he won’t have to stoop too low or reach too high to work. The next step is to gather the tools he will need to do this particular task. He walks over to his toolbox. With one dip of his hand into a drawer of what seems to be hundreds of different sized sockets, he was able to pick out the exact socket for the draining bolt of the car. Not forgetting to pick up a ratchet and a filter wrench, he leaves his toolbox and walks over to the “oil catcher”. This oil catcher is a red cylindrical container about two feet in diameter, which can be moved around with the four small wheels at the bottom. Sitting on top of the container is a large, rather funny looking shallow funnel with a long snout. After dragging everything he has collected over to the waiting car, the mechanic is now ready to tackle the business of changing the oil.

The next stage involves draining the used oil from the engine. Every mechanic knows the oil should be drained while the engine is still warm. It will be hot, but that is good; it will flow better and can be drained completely from the engine. After putting on a pair of latex gloves to protect his hands from the oil, he picks up the socket and positions the oil container to where the stream of hot oil will be coming down. He fits the socket onto the draining bolt then uses the ratchet to turn the bolt counter-clockwise to loosen it, after which he unfastens it the rest of the way with his hand. As the bolt rotates through the last thread and falls down to the oil catcher, dark burnt used oil from the engine squirts out from the opening, only to disappear down the large funnel into the container below. While the oil catcher is patiently collecting the last dripping of the dirty black ooze from the engine, the mechanic moves on to the next stage of the process: changing the oil filter. The oil filter is used to filter out debris while the oil is being cycled through a running engine. Without the oil filter, car owners will probably have to change the oil every 100 miles instead of 3000 miles as suggested by most automobile manufactures. The mechanic sets the filter wrench down where it is within his reach in case he needs it. He wraps an old dry rag around the used oil filter. With his hand, he rotates it counter-clockwise to remove it from the engine. Experienced mechanics know not to tighten the oil filter too tight. Doing so will damage the filter gasket, which in turn, will result in oil leakage. After the used filter is removed and the dripping of the black ooze has come to a stop, the mechanic replaces the draining bolt. He twists it in a few threads with his hand to make sure the bolt is going in straight then tightens it with the ratchet. After wiping the area around the bolt clean with a rag, he pulls out a brand new oil filter from its box, runs his finger on the inside of the funnel for some oil then lubricates the rubber gasket on the new filter. Lubrication of the gasket is necessary, as when he rotates the filter to tighten, the friction between the engine and the filter will not damage the delicate gasket, or worse, peel it off from the filter. Now he is ready to install the new oil filter. Like the draining bolt, he turns it slowly clockwise, making sure the threads catch on right. After turning the filter as far as he can with only his hand, he wraps a rag around the filter to get a better grip and gives it a final twist for another quarter of a turn.

The mechanic is now moving on to the next stage of the process, which is putting new oil into the engine. A careful mechanic will refer to the notice under the hood for the type of oil and the required volume for the vehicle. He also knows that, as a rule of thumb, most passenger vehicles under normal driving condition do not require a special oil grade; 10W40 is usually the recommended oil grade. The grade of oil refers to its resistance to flow (viscosity). The first number is viscosity at low temperature (starting), and the second is the viscosity at high temperature (when the engine is hot); higher number means thinner oil and an easier flow. The mechanic lowers the car, pulls a nearby oil drum over, and pumps new oil into the engine. He stops every now and then to check the oil level with the car’s dipstick. This is a 2-½ feet long thin metal stick, usually located on either side of the engine. The top end of the dipstick is hooked into a round handle where the index finger can lace through, while other end of the dipstick is scored with an inch long “safe level” marking. He is making sure the rising oil level mark gets as close to the “full” level mark as it can. If the engine is filled with too much oil, oil pressure will be too high, and the excess oil will get into the combustion compartment, where it will be burned along with the fuel; black smoke from the exhaust system is the direct result of this. If the amount of oil in the combustion compartment is too excessive, it could lead to clogging of sparkplugs and high concentrated oil in combustible fuel mixture; the result is an inoperative vehicle. On the other hand, if the engine doesn’t have enough oil, moving parts of the engine, like pistons and valves, will not be supplied with enough lubrication. Low oil lubrication means engines parts will be worn out faster. In a worst-case scenario, the excessive friction will cause the moving parts to heat up and seize; engine replacement is often the only remedy for this type of complication. When the right oil level is reached, the mechanic replaces the oil cap. This does not mean his job is done.

All conscientious mechanics will make sure they complete the quality assurance stage before they declare the job is done. The mechanic raises the car again. He gets under the engine and looks up to check for signs of leakage. He gives extra attention to the oil filter and draining bolt areas. After everything looks reasonably sound to his trained eyes, only then he would lower the car to the floor. He backs the car out of the shop and test-drives it once around the block to make sure the engine is not making any strange sounds. Finally, he steps out and gets on his hands and knees to give the undercarriage another quick check. Now his job is done.

As I help my little brother clean up the mess, I can hear his mumbling: “It won’t be like this next time!” From the expression on his face, I am sure the meaning of the phrase is: this is my last “do-it-yourself” oil change. For people who don’t know much about cars, (like my little brother), a wise choice would be to pay the $20 and have professional mechanics do the oil change. It is a small price to pay for keeping ones from the troubles associated with “do-it-yourself” automotive repair tasks. I personally think the service is worth every penny asked. The price is not too much or too little; it’s a fair price for a much needed service.

34 Million Sardines in a Can

Is there anything more frustrating than sitting in rush hour traffic, day after day, knowing that it will never get better? How does standing in line at the grocery story, spending a full day at the crowded Department of Motor Vehicles, or having to squeeze into the packed elevator in a downtown high-rise sound? These are but a few minor, yet inconvenient, effects of the population explosion we Californian’s are facing. Our geographical space is not getting any larger, but our population is. The 2000 census showed California’s population increased by 13.6% over 1990 census figures to 33,871,648 people. California adds over 550,000 people annually, which is roughly equivalent to adding the entire population of the state of Vermont every year. Why is California so over crowded and what are the potential long-term effects of this overcrowding?

First of all, let’s look at some of the reasons why California is so overcrowded. Probably the biggest single reason people live in California is the weather. California is, meteorologically speaking, a very desirable place to live. There is a wide variety of weather from the snow-capped mountains of Northern California, to the valleys and deserts of Southern California. Between the two, there is the lush, rainy wine country of Sonoma County, the breezy coastal beach cities of Orange County, and the sweltering desert communities of San Diego and Riverside Counties. Together, these places offer atmospheric conditions for most everyone’s taste. Spend one winter in Minnesota and then try to come back and complain about how undesirable our weather is. There will not be much sympathy given by those around the country wishing they were here.

Other reasons people reside in California are the different forms of entertainment that are available. From skiing in the mountains to surfing at the beaches, there is always some form of physical activity in which to engage during most of the year. Other entertainment options include a wide variety of amusement parks, sporting events, the television and the motion picture industry, museums, fine dining establishments, and more shopping venues than could be visited in a year. These events might seem like a luxury to some, or perhaps a “must do” to others, but either way, they are definitely a magnet to those who do not consider themselves a “couch potato.”

Our strong job market has been the “dangling carrot” for many over the years. The aerospace boom of the 1990’s, for example, saw thousands of jobs created when large government contracts were signed. If California were a nation all to itself, it would boast the 6th largest economy in the world. Unfortunately, this strong job market has bolstered the problem of illegal immigration. Refugees from neighboring countries enter the United States illegally with the hope of finding work and being able to send money back to their families in their home country. This illegal border crossing is exacerbated by California’s liberal immigration policy. Governor Gray Davis and other state officials have increased the number of aliens it will let in on student and work visas. Statistics from the Census Bureau show many of these people stay in the state illegally after the expiration of their respective visas. If the alien has a child, who is born on U.S. soil, the child is automatically a U.S. citizen, thus making it very easy for the parents to qualify for citizenship. A comparison shows one out of four of California’s residents were born outside of the United States, while the national average is one out of ten born outside the U.S.

Now that we have looked at reasons why California is so overcrowded, let’s examine some of the short and long term effects of this problem. In the August 2001 edition of the Negative Population Growth online journal, California Historian Kevin Starr wrote: “The key challenge facing this state for the next century will be growth.” The Negative Population Growth (NPG) web site has statistics and articles related to the overpopulation of the nation and individual states. They cite sources such as the California Legislative Analyst’s Office who released the following statement:

“California’s staggering population growth is diminishing quality of life in the state. This Office warns that continued growth will produce additional strains on the state’s physical and environmental infrastructure, including demands on the energy sector, transportation system, parks, and water delivery system.” The NPG goes on to talk about how the population increased, habitats of species are destroyed to create room for housing and roads. Less than 1/10th of the state’s original wetlands are still around. One hundred and ten animal species and one hundred and seventy nine plant species are endangered or threatened as a result of construction demands. There are over 100,000 new students added annually to California schools, which are already the most overcrowded in the nation. Estimates from the State Department of Education show that sixteen new classrooms will need to be built every day, seven days a week, for the next five years to accommodate the ever-growing population. California averages 217 people per square mile in the state, which is nearly triple the national average of 79.6 people per square mile. San Francisco has an average density of 16,526 people per square mile. This overcrowding has resulted in high housing prices and apartment shortages, which force some people to live many miles from work. This increased distance means more time spent commuting and adds to the congestion on the roadways.

The United States will likely never institute a law like the Chinese government has which limits the number of children a family can have. We as citizens of this country are guaranteed life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness by the Bill of Rights. However, as a group, we must recognize our population problem now before it becomes uncontrollable. We must find alternative energy and food sources, plan for a shortage in housing, look for advances in medicine to cure sicknesses, and strive to protect our environment. We are a guest on this beautiful planet and have selfishly let our own desires get in the way of common sense. The answer is not a simple one, nor will it likely be one dimensional. It took many years for us to get to this point and will take many more for us to find a viable solution.


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