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1. Nonfiction, Psychology
work on the effects of modern day media on human thought
... With every new media advance comes
some suggestion it will be the downfall of society,
the harbinger of an intellectual apocalypse that people
have been prophesying since papyrus replaced inflammable
TV and video games are rotting the minds
of our youth. The Internet is destroying the brains
True, we use the Internet as a tool. True
that without it some tasks seem downright impossible.
How, for example, would one find a hotel room in Chicago?
Or the ingredients in a samosa? Or the best route during
But if there’s anything to take from cognitive
psychology, it’s that tool-use is the hallmark of intelligence.
Encyclopedias, atlases, dictionaries, even phone books
all employ brute force, while the Internet is the epitome
of ease and efficienciency.
For example, if I want to know the average
rainfall in Madagascar I can find out in less time than
it takes to type the answer (about 100 mm). Also on
the page is a picture of one of those long-limbed lemurs,
the silky sifaka. Doesn’t the Duke Primate Center house
some of those? A quick jaunt to their page can tell
me in a second. There I see Duke has released a study
on a new blood thinner. I wonder how Dennis Quaid’s
twins are doing, after their accidental overdose of
the blood-thinner Heparin. I do a quick search on their
status. It sure seems like a lot of celebrities have
twins ... The query pulls up 15,900 hits in .28 seconds.
I wonder what the incidence is in non-celebrities? And
what of the cases of twins, separated at birth, who
both become podiatrists and drive yellow hatchbacks
and marry history teachers named Marcy — and speaking
of history, I wonder what started the Franco-Prussian
War — and where exactly is Prussia — and what’s the
average rainfall there?
Hmm. Before I know it an hour is gone
and I’ve retained next to nothing. Maybe the Internet
is making me stupider. (Is stupider even a word?) Or
maybe, though it leaves innate intelligence relatively
untouched, it's wrecking my ability to focus.
Online, I bounce around from story to
story, opting for the short ones and skimming anything
over a page. Even offline I can’t seem to concentrate
like I used to— can’t sit and read for long periods
without getting distracted.
It seems that for all it’s given us, the
Web has also caught us in its sticky spool and is slowly
sapping its captives' attention spans.
How can the Internet exert such powerful
effects on attention? How can the human brain be so
easily broken down?
In fact the Internet's influence is possible
because of the way our brains are designed. The Internet
appeals to some basic mental processes, and then it
exploits these processes, hooking the user in the process.
Oddly enough (or perhaps not odd at all), the same neural
machinery that helps us function efficiently in the
natural world backfires in the cyber world.
For example, the Internet takes advantage
of our ability to rapidly take in large amounts of information.
Imagine entering a room you’ve never been in before.
What do you do? Do you pore over the details of the
fabric on the couch before moving on to the next item,
and then the next? Or do you quickly glance around the
room, scanning it all before zeroing in on any one thing?
If you’re normal you do the latter. Instinct demands
we take in as much general information about our surroundings
as possible—as quickly as possible—in order to ensure
there's nothing dangerous or urgent. Only after scanning
it all do we devote deeper attention to any one object.
In the cyber-world, however, we never
get to the stage where we can devote deeper attention.
Every page of the Internet is like a new room, and there
are more of them than we could ever hope to scan. Not
only that, but each page contains portals to hundreds
of other pages, spurring the user into a frenzy of exploration.
For example, the home page of the Wall Street Journal—whose
Web site is actually one of the quietest--displayed
73 headlines on a random day—interspersed among data
feeds, scoreboards, streaming headlines, photo slideshows,
29 section options, Podcasts, videos, ads, and 18 links
promising more, more, more.
No wonder it’s hard to focus.
Back to top.
2. Nonfiction, Politics
work on illegal immigration in the U.S.
…To enter the world of immigration legislation
is to enter an Escher painting. Paradoxical laws intersect,
intervene, and split off from one another. Just when
one seems to be going somewhere promising, an opposing
law rises up and blocks its path. It is a twisted mess
of multidimensional contradictions. Trying to untangle
it risks a serious case of vertigo.
But here goes:
After 9/11, the Department of Homeland
Security (DHS) launched its E-Verify system, a free
federal database that any employer can access to verify
an employee’s legal status. The program checks I-9 information
against the Social Security Administration and DHS databases.
It is 96 percent successful at spotting fake SS numbers,
and results are usually back within 24 hours.
In addition, the Systematic Alien Verification
for Entitlements, or SAVE, program allows federal, state,
and local agencies to check applicants’ immigration
status for the purpose of ensuring only eligible persons
receive public benefits, like Social Security or welfare.
But E-verify and SAVE are, with few exceptions,
voluntary. And despite efforts to drum up excitement,
few private industries have been stepping up to volunteer.
“If you check one (employee using E-Verify),
you have to check them all,” said a Human Resources
rep at a nearby factory which chooses not to use the
database. “And then you have to pay somebody to do all
Federal law prohibits all employers –
big or small, public or private – from knowingly hiring
illegal aliens. But the word “knowingly” provides a
loophole in which employers can knowingly or unknowingly
hide. Unless an employer falls under a separate law
that requires the use of E-Verify, they’re not required
to knowingly know – or at least not in a way that illegals
From construction companies, to plants
and factories, to stores and restaurants, most employers
are only required to fill out I-9 forms for employees,
using a driver’s license and SS card, or work authorization
And, in an irony that epitomizes immigration’s
convoluted bureaucracy – while illegals present forged
paperwork (drawn up with the precision of Picasso painting
a cube), and while most employers aren’t required to
use E-Verify – they are required to accept employees’
documents as genuine, lest they violate antidiscrimination
Back to top.
3. A Memoir
Excerpt: A Memoir
I can still see the buildings standing
there, all in a row, the drops of mist catching the
morning light and forming little balls of color that
hang suspended in the haze like a school of jellyfish,
until they grow full and heavy with sun and float gracefully
down, waiting for their turn to rise again. It gives
the whole scene that fuzzy, fairytale look.
For the first year that one there was
mine, second from the end, with the hole in the baseboard
by the door. There were 12 of us that slept there. Six
on each side. Our feet all against the wall, our heads
down the length of the hallway so the beam of light
from the Master’s room fell on our faces and they could
watch for reflections in open eyes. Even now I can lie
in bed without wrinkling my eyelids, my chest moving
smoothly up and down in the rhythm of perfect sleep.
But after a year they moved me to Challoner,
and a different light cast by the moon brought a new
wakefulness … In my Father’s house.
Some days I forget it completely. I forget
the greyness of it all. The smell of iodine and dust,
the tiny hole at the foot of the mattress stretched
a little larger every night by the digging of my toe.
I forget the click of the door when the moonbeam reached
But some days I wash outside, unable to
face the white tile of the bathroom. Some days the memories
pound and tear at the walls of my mind, the barriers
I have so painfully and carefully constructed. But the
past needs only a crack. It slips in, like water in
rock, and expands until the dam has crumbled and been
swept into the surge, freeing the flow to submerge the
fragile world below.
Back to top.
on international dating—what to expect and what to watch
Chapter: How to Avoid Marriage Scams
Try this. Do an Internet search for "marriage
agency scams" and check out several of the top
These sites were specifically developed
to warn others about the dangers of marriage scams.
This is very important information, and anyone interested
in finding a foreign bride would be well served to read
Except there’s just one problem here.
Most of these sites are scams.
That's right — many sites specifically designed to warn
men about the prevalence of foreign marriage scams are,
in fact, scams themselves.
These scammers operate by gaining the
confidence of readers by posing as one of the "good
guys"—while directing the unsuspecting user to
another site that is, drum-roll please, a scam!
Welcome the world of international intrigue
and excitement that is, all too often, also the world
of international dating.
Don't get us wrong, there have been thousands
upon thousands of legitimate marriages made possible
by honest foreign marriage services. But you have to
Many men seeking a foreign bride are blinded
by their own hopes and dreams. This fact alone makes
them vulnerable to love fraud. Then, throw in the fact
that many of the women they’ll be meeting over the internet
are beautiful, intelligent and "vulnerable"
themselves—and too often the man's testosterone kicks
into chivalrous over-drive.
She begins to make him see himself as
an amorous knight in shining armor. He’ll rescue her,
and by doing so, rescue himself.
This is textbook stuff.
And we aren't making fun of the men who've
fallen victim to this sort of fraud. Far from it. We
know that for the most part, men are helpless to this
sort of con game. It's hardwired into a man's genes
and there's not much he can do about it. Unfortunately,
the hucksters and scam sites know this as well and they
prey upon men who fall for The Damsel in Distress Scam.
Too often, men go into the international
dating scene aware of these potential scams, but nonetheless
think "it'll never happen to me."
But think of it this way: You're ready
to experience international dating. You are aware of
the fake scams, so you pledge to yourself that you are
going to be smart—that you'll be on the lookout for
suspicious requests—and you'll have your defenses on
high alert with maximum shields in place.
Then you meet Svetlana, a stunning 25
year old from St. Petersburg. She speaks 3 languages,
has a great education, and spends her time exercising,
reading and taking care of her sister.
Your defenses just lost 75% of their power.
You know this, but you justify lowering your guard because
her profile is just so innocent, so sweet, and besides,
"I really should give people a chance."
You further justify your actions by telling
yourself that if you don't show her any trust, you'll
never get to know her. After all, you came to this agency
to get to know people, right? And the agency promised
you its screening process was top-notch, besides.
So everything is going splendidly! You've
made a real connection here! This is the girl of your
dreams! You look forward to her next email with the
greatest of anticipation. Making a love connection with
such a beautiful, intelligent and kind woman—a woman
who shares your values for love and family—is an overwhelming
And then it stops.
You send her more emails.
Finally, after the week that seemed like
a year, you get an email from Svetlana apologizing profusely.
Her sister had a bad week and needed more medical care.
Unfortunately, all the money she used for the dating
agency now needs to go for her sister's care.
You know where this is going.
She could never ask you for money, but
of course she won't be able to use the agency’s services—which
of course includes the Internet.
Now, in this scenario you know better.
You know full well the whole thing is a bit suspicious.
But you also know she has not been interested in your
money and that she's put too much effort into this relationship
for a mere $50.00/month for the agency. You do a quick
calculation in your head: $50 a month (until you see
her) for the chance to meet and possibly marry the beautiful
25 year old with the perfect body and traditional values.
The choice is easy. "Do you want
the money by wire or check?" you ask.
Once money is a part of your relationship
it becomes much easier for her to ask you for more.
Plus, at this point, you're pot committed. You've already
sunk $750 into agency fees (and maybe a heating bill).
Are you really going to jeopardize everything because
she needs a measly $250 for a much needed car repair?
So. Want to avoid falling victim to a
The answer is simple: Don't
send her money.
No respectable woman from any country
is going to ask for money in this manner. If you don't
believe us, try asking another woman from her culture.
We’re quite sure she'll confirm this fact.
If you do get a request, spend some time
perusing the other profiles. You'll see there are a
lot of beautiful, sweet women out there, many of whom
honestly just want to meet a good man and who are not
in it for the money. Why not give them a chance instead?
There is no reason to go through the international
dating process as a na?ve fool. Don't let the fraudsters
get the best of you. Even if you say "No"
to an honest request from a women, if she’s the right
girl for you, she’ll understand why. She’ll know you’re
nobody's fool and that this attribute will benefit both
of you — along with your future children.
We spoke earlier about a universal condition
that affects all men: Falling for the Damsel in Distress.
Again, it’s completely natural for men to want to help
the woman they are courting. But remember—women understand
this trait in men. A woman who will make a good partner
will never play on your emotions in such a calculating
The right woman knows she should never
try to take advantage by arousing your sympathies and
your chivalrous nature. A respectable woman would never
try to exploit you this way. A woman who is honest with
her intentions and actions does not want your money
or your pity. She only wants you. And she would never
risk losing you for a car repair or agency fee.
Please understand, we are not encouraging
you to be paranoid or distrustful. There is no need
for such strong, negative emotions when conducting your
international marriage search.
What we are saying, instead, is to be
aware of the fact that some people are dishonest and
will try take advantage of you. If you think that you
must grant a woman’s every request in order to have
a relationship with her you’re not only naive, but weak
as well. This type of behavior only feeds on itself.
It will rear its ugly head with the next woman you meet
and act as a natural repellent. Don't make this mistake.
If you already caught in this trap, and
are about to get married or are considering a K1 or
K3 Visa, you might consider politely telling your fianc?e
"No" the next time she asks for money. At
some point in the future, you do expect to say "No"
to a money request, don't you? Who knows, maybe she'll
ask during a bad month and you honestly won't have the
funds. Times are tough, right? So why not just try giving,
"No, I'm sorry. Money's a little tight right now"
a test drive. Better to see how she performs before
the marriage than after.
Remember, thousands of men have met their
foreign wives on the Internet, and thousands of couples
are still happily married. Meeting the woman of your
dreams in this way can work.
But also remember: This is about love,
not money, and love is not always easy. Indeed, just
as there are no real "get rich quick" schemes,
there are even fewer "get love quick" schemes.
Don't be a fool for instant gratification
in love. Relax and be patient. You will be rewarded.
Article: The K1 Visa Application
…It’s important to remember that almost
50% of all visa petitions are denied on the basis of
a mistake in the filing.
Even if there are no mistakes in your
application, your visa could easily be denied if your
supporting documentation is weak—especially given that
the strength of your case will be subjectively decided
by the immigration official handling your case.
If there is a mistake in your application,
or if your supporting proof is deemed inadequate, your
file will be placed in Administrative Review by the
U.S. Embassy. If this happens, a decision on your case
can be delayed for unknown months! And keep in mind
the ruling could still be a denial after all those months.
If the K1 Visa petition is approved, do
not think the approval of your K1 Visa is assured. In
fact, this could not be farther from the truth. That’s
because now is when the U.S. Consulate takes over.
At this point in the process, the fianc?e must submit
a series of requirements, have a clean background check
and medical exam and conduct an interview.
The K1 Interview
The K1 interview is very important to
the K1 Visa process. Many K Visas are terminated at
this point, in which case the applicants must start
the process over.
Reasons for termination vary significantly,
but one common reason is that the embassy official may
not be comfortable with an answer given by the fianc?e.
If this happens, your entire K1 Visa file
is sent back to the USCIS in the U.S. for an "investigation."
If this occurs, the minimum delay is six months (and
the maximum delay is indefinite).
All too often, couples underestimate the
importance, and the difficulty, of these interviews.
They are kind of like those old Love Connection Game
Shows—only the stakes are much higher!
The worst part of this process is that
the immigration officials often do not want to take
a stand and either grant the approval or issue a denial
(for which you could appeal). Instead, they tend to
shuffle cases between departments so nobody has to make
a final decision.
This is K1 Visa purgatory. And it has
the stressful effect of leaving the K1 couple in limbo,
completely unsure where they stand.
Spending a year in this couples’ wasteland
is bound to put considerable strain on any relationship.
If your future together is important to you, don't risk
it! Get a professional to handle your case.
Back to top.
It was supposed to be one of those dreary
fall days. When the water and the sky are just different
shades of gray and the cold soaks through you with the
wet of the air. When you hunch your shoulders and huddle
into yourself and let your thoughts sink as low as the
But the sun came out. The sky turned clear
and bright. The lake is dancing and shimmering just
to spite me.
I push off the dock and start up the motor.
Grady grew up on this lake. That's her, asleep in the
bow. I didn’t grow up on it, but I know this lake like
the back of my hand – which is to say I must constantly
check for the cracks and changes that time brings about.
Which is to say that if I really start looking, I find
I don’t know it well at all.
Today the cataracts of comfort are gone
and I’m looking at it all with a special scrutiny. I’m
out here today to shoot my dog.
Back to top.
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