How vaccination works

One of the ways our society relies on to combat viral diseases is through vaccination.  But, how does that work?

First, let’s look at viruses:

Diagram of an influenza virus from

There are several important things to notice:

  • The coiled things on the inside, which look like springs or slinkies, are the genetic material of the virus.  Viruses only contain half the genetic material that a ‘normal’ living cell needs, so they cannot make more (reproduce) unless they invade another cell and hijack its reproductive system.
  • The wall of the virus (lipid envelope) is made up of two layers of lipid molecules.  This wall is an incredibly good barrier, preventing material from going through it.
  • The  yellow spikes and other bits that stick outside the wall are actually proteins which are embedded in the wall of the virus.  Because the double lipid wall is such a good barrier, these proteins are the ‘channels’ through which things can move across the wall.  All cells (not just viruses) have them:  they can move water and nutrients (and waste materials) through the bi-lipid cell wall, allowing a cell to ‘eat’, ‘breathe’ and communicate.

These proteins that ‘stick outside the wall’ are very important for another reason:  each type of virus (or other infecting cell) has a slightly different types of proteins sticking out, and they are arranged in slightly different ways.  Therefore, the ‘pattern’ and ‘shape’ of these proteins has become the easiest way to identify the virus.  (Scientists can also analyze the genetic structure of a virus, but this is not something our immune system can do!  So, our bodies recognize viruses by the ‘fingerprint’ of the proteins on their surface.)

An actual electron-microscope view of a virus looks like this:

Image on an avian influenza virus from Health&Fitness

As you can see, the proteins stick out on the outside of the wall of the virus, and they form a very specific pattern.  This is very important, because it is precisely by the specific proteins and the pattern they form that our immune system recognizes viruses (and other ‘pathogens‘, which cause infection).

Looking at the human immune system quickly will not be so easy, because it is much more complex than a simple virus is.  Let me give it a try…

When our body is infected by an ‘antigen‘ ( a pathogen which will cause our immune system to react and generate antibodies – as opposed to a poison, etc.), our immune system springs into action.  It follows a very specific chain of steps:

  • ‘General defense’:  the ‘generic’ cells which kill all kinds of ‘invaders’ are released by the immune system in hope of containing the infection within hours, before it can spread too far thoroughout one’s body.
  • If this does not work, the next line of defense begins:  this is when the body begins to defend itself against a ‘specific antigen’.
    • the body attempts to identify the infection by looking at the ‘fingerprint’ pattern of proteins on its skin/surface/cell membrane by comparing the current infection against its ‘memory database’ of past infections the body has successfully defeated
      • if it has no record of past infection that looks ‘like’ this one, it begins to ‘figure out’ the best way to fight it
        • once it figures out the best ‘antibody’ to produce, which would be most effective in fighting this specific infection, it will begin to produce it…but, figuring it out is a process of trial-and-error, and can take quite a while
      • if it finds a ‘match’ in its ‘memory database’ between the ‘fingerprint’ of the surface proteins – types and pattern – of this infection, it begins to produce the same antibodies which worked against it the last time
    • the body produces the antibodies which fight against this specific infection:  that is, it produces the very antibodies that it produced the last time it saw this pattern, and got better as a result
    • if these antibodies are strong enough to kill the infection faster than it can reproduce AND if the infection has not reached a critical level before the body can produce this antibody in sufficient amounts to conquer it, the person will survive the illness which is the result of the infection

So, how does vaccination fit the picture?

Vaccines are made up of either weakened viruses (viruses and bacteria are the most common forms of infection, and we have antibiotics to fight bacteria (viruses are too small/primitive to be killed by antibiotics)) or viruses that are dead and ‘ground up’.

When the the body ‘receives’ the vaccine, it perceives it as any other infection.  The vaccines are engineered to provoke the body to start manufacturing antibodies and the cells which recognize the’fingerprint pattern’ of the ‘antigen’ (weakened virus, or bits of the virus wall with the ‘fingerprint pattern’ of proteins on it which the body uses to recognize an infection).  In other words, the weak virus or bits of the wall of that virus will be fought – and catalogued for future use.

The theory is that if a virus (or another antigen) enters the body in the future, and the body will recognize it and produce antibodies which ‘recognize’ it and fight it.

By ‘recognizing’ the invader, the body can begin to produce the antibodies very quickly.  While some infections take a long time to overwhelm the body, other ones – the ones called ‘virulent‘ – can make one ill very, very quickly… faster than the body can find an antibody that would work!  (During the more virulent outbreaks of ‘black death‘, it was said that people could go to sleep feeling perfectly healthy, but die of the disease before the morning…)  This speed in the body’s ability to defend itself against an invading infection can mean the difference between life and death…or, at least, between a speedy recovery and an unpleasant illness.

Therefore, the philosophy behind vaccination is to introduce a non-lethat (not dangerous) form of a really bad pathogen to a body in order to get its immune system to figure out (without the danger of being ovewhelmed by the infecting disease) how to fight that specific germ, so that the body can store this information in its ‘pathogen database’.  Then, if it ever encounters the ‘full-strength’ germ, it will be able to ‘remember’ how to fight quickly – not giving the invading infection the time to become strong by spending valuable time trying to figure out how to fight it!

This is a beautiful theory!

And, like all such theories, it does actually work in many, many cases!  Unless a person has an atypical, stressed or diseased immune system, vaccination will be very effective in providing them with protection against a potential future infection.

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Swine flu: arm yourself with information

The best way to combat things – in my never-humble-opinion – is to arm yourself with information.

So, without further ado, here is a YouTube video – just released – by Thunderf00t (I have found him to be an accurate and reliable source of information on scientific topics in the past):

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The problem with vaccines….

As the reports about the ‘swine flu’ are spreading like wildfire, people are wondering how to protect themselves.  This brings up more and more talk about ‘vaccines’:  how large are our supplies, how easily we can create more, and so on.

Frankly, we have a problem with vaccines…

No, I don’t mean the ‘accidents’ that can happen in the manufacture and distribution of vaccines.  These are real problems, because ‘human error’ is, well, something we, humans do.  But, we do learn from our mistakes (I hope!) – plus, depriving oneself of a useful defense against disease just because someone might have made a mistake somewhere along the way is a little extreme…  We ‘ought to’ worry about this in the sense that we demand good oversight and testing and all that – but there comes a point when we must trust our government institutions to do their job!

Nor am I talking about the laughable ease with which terrorists could use ‘live vaccines’ to inject multiple live viruses into willing persons, in the hope that the viruses simultaneously attacking the same cells will produce a ‘super-virus’ in at least one of them (this is called ‘reassortment‘), then using our mass transport system to spread them.  That is just a little paranoid… and worries like this are best left to our law-enforcement agencies!

The real problem we all have with ‘vaccination’ is much deeper and much more serious.

The real problem lies in the unrealistic expectations we place in vaccination!

The fault  for this lies – to a great degree – with the medical community.  (To a lesser degree, the fault lies with the mainstream media (MSM) for accepting the medical community’s word without digging deep enough to get the facts, and with each and every one of us who lets the medical and journalistic communities get away with doing such a poor job.)

Please, don’t get me wrong:  I am not ‘anti-vaccine’.

It’s just that I cannot stand it when people are given ‘partial information’ when they are expecting ‘the whole truth’ and when people are generally misled about ‘stuff’ – especially about ‘stuff’ which involves science!

And, when it comes to vaccines, we are often told by our MDs and other ‘health workers’ only part of the truth:  only the information which will manipulate us into doing what they think  is best for us, instead of letting us make the choice ourselves.  They may mean ‘best’ for us – but, by not telling us all we need to know, they are depriving us of the ability to make an informed choice for ourselves.

I am not joking – or making this up.  Physicians are taught (according to an MD in Ontario) in their medical ethics class that their responsibility is to the ‘greater community’, not individual patients.  Therefore, it is their ethical responsibility to only give their patients positive information on vaccination so that they will build a ‘greater herd immunity’ (his words, not mine) – even if this will harm a percentage of their patients.  This ‘will lead to overall benefit to society’, so ‘the end justifies the means’…

So, please, take a moment to consider for yourselves whether or not we have a problem ‘with vaccinations’:

  1. Every medical procedure has risks associated with it – even vaccination. We need accurate information on the risk to each one of us – as an individual, so we will have the ability to make informed choices for ourselves. Yet, we are told no more than vaccinations are ‘safe’.
  2. No vaccine is 100% effective. Some people will have no protection against a virus, even though they have been vaccinated against it.  Yet, before we are given a vaccine, we are not shown any figures which show what the efficacy of this vaccine is, and how likely someone within our ‘demographic’ is to benefit form it! (Most doctors who administer the vaccines do not have these figures – I have asked, many times!)  Yes, there are various methods of measuring the efficacy of a vaccine, but some of the vaccines we are currently offered are known to have less than 50% (some less than 20%) in ‘field application’ (meaning in ‘trials outside the lab’ – like when administered to ‘general population’). Yet, we are told that vaccinations WILL protect us against infectious diseases!
  3. Believing that they have 100% protection because they’ve been vaccinated, people are not likely to take other precautions. Of course, this will raise the danger of exposure to the very danger they think they are safe from. And THIS is the REAL problem…

Nothing we do in life is without a risk associated with it!

This does not mean we ought to ‘stop living’….  But it does mean that as responsible people, we must make choices about what we do, and how we do it.  Therefore, we MUST be given accurate information about just how effective the various actions we take to protect ourselves from infectious diseases truly are!

Vaccinations are likely a key weapon which we can (and should) use to combat the spread of infectious diseases.  But to use any weapon effectively, we need to know its strengths as well as its weaknesses.

When it comes to vaccinations, we know we are not being told the whole truth. That is dangerous!

And THAT is the problem with vaccinations…

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From Persia to Iran: a tutorial by CodeSlinger

Iran – and its colourful president Ahmadinejad – are in the news a quite lot these days…

But how many of us really know that much about how Iran became what it is today – a hard-line, fascist theocracy with a decidedly apocalyptic fetish?

While I do know a little bit of their history, my interest in the region kind of waned when they stopped building ziggurats, so I’m a little bit out of touch…  (Aside: soon, I’ll be putting up a video with instructions on how to build a model of a ziggurat, inspired by the Ziggurat of Ur – I’m in the process of preparing kits of it for a class-full of eager grade-5-ers!  Fun!)

In other words, I needed a bit of a tutorial on the more recent (say, 20th century) history of Iran.  CodeSlinger was happy to oblige!

Originally, he posted this as a part (!) of a comment to an earlier post of mine, in which he was answering several of my questions – including What is ‘Cultural Marxism’? (which became a post of its own).

With his permission, here is CodeSlinger’s tutorial on the 20th century events, through which Persia became the Iran of today:

Now that we have all that out of the way , we can see what I mean when I say that the manner in which the Pahlavi Shahs went about modernizing Iran subjected the country to the destructive effects of cultural Marxism.  I’m certainly not saying the Shah of Iran was a Marxist.  I’m pretty sure he was nominally Muslim, though he vigorously pursued the policy of secularization begun by his father, so what they really believed is hard to say.

But I don’t think either of them deliberately set out to harm their country, though the father was clearly the shrewder and more ruthless of the two.  The sense I get from reading about them is that they meant to rule well, if at all possible, but they meant to rule in any case.  The social reforms they introduced were being put into practice everywhere in the modern world at the time, but nowhere had they been in place long enough to allow the tree to be known by its fruit.

The father first appears on the stage of history as Reza Khan, commander of the Persian Cossack Brigade, which he used to seize control of Persia and put and end to the Qajar dynasty in 1923, upon which he became Reza Shah and took the surname Pahlavi.  Being broke, in danger of being swallowed by the Russians, and in danger of being overthrown by the Shiite Imams, Reza Shah implemented a strongly anti-communist police state and gave carte-blanche to the British.

To weaken the Shiites, he mandated European dress for men and supported the so-called Women’s Awakening, which included allowing women to work outside the home and banning the chador (!) in 1931.  Another move calculated to weaken the Imams was finalizing the release of the Jews from the ghettos and repealing restrictions on their entry into the professions.  Anyone in government who seriously opposed him was killed.  In the process, he became one of the richest men in Persia, became loved by the city dwellers but alienated the majority of the population, who were still country folk and devout Muslims, and got into a major confrontation with the Imams.

When he felt strong enough, he turned on the British and broke their stranglehold on the country’s infrastructure.  He cancelled the Anglo-Persian Oil Company’s concession, took control of the currency away from the British Imperial Bank, and nationalized the telegraph system.  He encouraged trade with Germany and Italy to further weaken British and Russian influence.  He also changed the name of the country from Persia to Iran, which means Land of the Aryans in Farsi.  Even so, he declared neutrality when World War II broke out, and allowed neither the Axis nor the Allies to operate on Iranian soil.

Not that it helped him.  In 1941, the British and the Russians, whom he had so far successfully played off against each other, joined forces and occupied Iran — ostensibly because they needed a route by which the Allies could supply war materiel to the Russians, but recouping losses was definitely part of the agenda.  The first thing the British did was force Reza Shah to abdicate in favour of his son, who, they correctly assumed, would be easier to handle.  So Prince Mohammad Reza Pahlavi became Shah of Iran at the age of 22.

In any case, Anglo-Persian Oil Company resumed operations under the new name of Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, and carried on until 1951, when Mohammed Mosaddeq got the Iranian parliament to vote him in as Prime Minister after engineering a coalition that nationalized the company.  In response, Anglo-Iranian pulled all of its people out of Iran and the British navy blockaded the Persian Gulf, which cut off oil revenues and turned Iran into a pressure cooker.

Mosaddeq assumed emergency powers, stripped the Shah of money and authority, and broke off diplomatic relations with Britain.  The Shah fled the country.  All kinds of factions emerged and before long, everybody was stabbing everybody else in the back.  Mosaddeq’s manoeuvrings became increasingly desperate and totalitarian, and this gave the British MI6 what they needed to convince the American CIA that Mosaddeq might get in bed with the communists in a last-ditch effort to keep himself in power.  The CIA mounted Operation Ajax in cooperation with MI6.

To make a long story short, the CIA threw a lot of money around, played everyone against everyone and engineered a coupe that deposed Mosaddeq and put the Shah back on the throne in 1953.  All the gory details of Operation Ajax can be found <a href=”” rel=”nofollow”>here</a>, if you’re interested.  In the end, Anglo-Iranian became British Petroleum, took the lead of a consortium of oil companies, and resumed production.  To consolidate his power, the Shah created a new secret police called SAVAK, whose agents were trained by the CIA and the Israeli Mossad (!) and beefed up the Iranian army, which was funded and equipped by the Americans.  Then he proceeded with his White Revolution in 1963, which we have already touched on.

All of this, of course created the perfect set-up for the backlash that dethroned the Shah for the second and last time in 1979 and put Khomeini firmly in control of Iran.  And for all the reputation that SAVAK had for brutality and torture, its replacement, called VEVAK, has a reputation for being a hundred times worse — of course, not much hard information is available outside Iran, since VEVAK operates without government supervision, but instead answers directly to the Supreme Leader, currently Ayatollah Ali Khamenei — in any case, the stories that are told are perfectly consistent with the methods known to be used by their friends and neighbours, the Taliban.

So, who are the good guys in this story?  I’ll be damned if I can find any.  If I had to pick anybody as the least bad, I guess it would have to be the Shah, but that isn’t saying much.  Not much at all.

However, it’s interesting to note the speculations that the CIA has backed every player in this game since the 1940’s, including Khomeini–!  Why would they do that?  Because it gives them leverage no matter how the balance comes out.  And in the present circumstances, that means leverage to manipulate the level of tension in the region to whatever level they need to set the price of oil where they want it, while justifying whatever level of military presence they deem necessary to keep control of Persian Gulf oil fields out of Russian and Chinese hands.  At the same time, it breeds terrorism, which they can use as a scourge of fear to justify increasingly repressive measures against their own population, back home in America.

As Baron Harkonnen said to Muad D’ib, “there are feints within feints within feints.”

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Holocaust Rememberance Day

Let us not forget:  never again!

We all have the responsibility – as individuals and as members of the human race – to never again let this happen!  It does not matter who the victims are:  if they are a specific race, or religion, or whatever!   Because, as my favourite philosopher says:

A person’s a person, no matter how small!

So, as we ponder and remember this horrible thing that happened – the Holocaust – we must not lie to ourselves about HOW something like that could possibly occur.

Some people are quick to point out that the Holocaust did not begin with actions – and they are right.  The Holocaust began with the BANNING OF FREE SPEECH!

Pre-Hitler Germany had very strong ‘hate-speech laws’ – ones which were eerily similar to the ‘hate-speech’ laws we, in Canada, much of the EU, and other ‘Western countries’, have now.  And, the Jewish community in Germany then was quite ‘satisfied’ with the way these laws were used to prosecute people who SPOKE anti-semitic sentiments.  Just as many Jewish groups say they are ‘satisfied’ with the ‘hate-speech’ laws here, now…

These very same ‘hate-speech’ laws were used in 1930’s Germany to muzzle anyone who spoke up against the ACTIONS and government policies which brought about the Holocaust!  Remember my first law of human dynamics:  if a law CAN be abused in any way – IT WILL.  Do people really not see the danger how laws which allow governments to silence people on topics of their choice can be abused?  Or that they are indeed being abused now…that the seeds of abuse of these very laws have already been sown in our society and are beginning to sprout?

Look around yourself now:  we are seeing more and more people becoming muzzled (even including lifetime bans to speak or communicate in any way on a whole topic!) for speaking up against certain government policies!!!

This is ONE lesson we MUST learn from history – because the Holocaust is something we must never allow to be repeated!

Never again!
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How to write an essay: part 3

Essays are ‘formula-writing’ at its best!  Still, many people go through school without ever learning the ‘formula’…

This series of posts is hoping to explain the ‘formula’ of essay-writing, and break it up into specific, easily comprehended pieces.

Part 1 attempted to explain how to ‘organize’ one’s points prior to starting the process of writing an essay.

Part 2 attempted to explain the ‘skeleton’ of the essay itself and how to get down the ideas/points for each of the main parts.

However, I got a little hung up on the fact that I could not figure out how to import tables into this blog… because I have made all the ‘templates’ in the form of tables… This has slowed me down a little – my apologies.

Since the inability to include ‘tables’ has sidetracked me (to say the least), I have not been as clear as I ought-to have been in explaining the ‘skeleton’ of the essay.  Please, allow me to remedy this by re-stating what the ‘basic structure’ of an essay is and the mechanics of what each ‘bit’ is supposed to accomplish:

Once the main point (title) and point of view have been chosen (or assigned), the rest of the essay needs to be crafted into the essay’s framework:

‘Opening’ paragraph


  • introduce the topic and explain what point the essay will make.


  • Introduce the topic.
  • Make the ‘main point’ (of the essay) about it (the topic).
  • Explain how you will prove your point (by mentioning the points in each of the ‘middle paragraphs’=’body of the essay’)
  • Sum up the paragraph/re-state the main point.

‘Body’ of the essay


  • to provide the ‘proof’ of the opening paragraph.


  • Typically, the body of the essay will contain 3 paragraphs (this refers .
  • Each paragraph will contain 1 ‘proof’/’support’ of the ‘main point’.
  • The structure of each of these ‘middle’/’body of the essay’ paragraphs will mirror the structure of the essay:  except inside the paragraph, it will be ‘opening sentence’ which introduces the ‘point’ to be made, ‘middle/body of the paragraph sentences’ which presents it and ‘makes the point’, and the ‘closing sentence’ which ties the ‘point’ of the  paragraph to the ‘point of the essay’ and sums up/closes the paragraph.

‘Concluding’ paragraph


  • Re-state the ‘main point’.
  • Explain how each of the ‘body’ paragraphs proved the ‘main point’. (That is, re-phrase the concluding sentences of the ‘middle’/’body of the essay’ paragraphs and tie them together to the ‘main point’ of the essay.)
  • State that (perhaps alluding to how) the ‘main point’ has ‘been proven’: this‘closes’ the essay.

Now that the ‘greater structure’ of the essay has been re-stated, it is time to address the structure of the individual paragraphs.

These break down into 2 main groups:

  • the ‘opening/closing’ paragraphs
    • their ‘common’ parts consist of:
      • stating the ‘main point’ of the essay – and the ‘point of view’ which the essay will present about the ‘main point’
      • using the ‘proof’/’supporting points’ from the ‘middle’/’supporting point’ paragraphs to illustrate the ‘point of view’ (one’s ‘take’ or ‘twist’ on the ‘main point’)
    • their ‘differences’ consist of:
      • the ‘opening paragraph’ introduces the topic, states the ‘main point’ – with the specific ‘point of view’ – and ‘touches on’ the ways in which this ‘proof’ will be made
      • the ‘closing paragraph’ re-states the ‘main topic’, ties the ‘proof’ from each of the paragraphs in the ‘body of the essay’ to the ‘main point’ (short version of the explanation of how they ‘prove’ the ‘main point’) and state that the point had thus been proven
    • thus, these two paragraphs are ‘mirror images’ of each other:  they both state the same information.  One says ‘it will be demonstrated’ – the other ‘it has been demonstrated’ and the words selected to make this statement need to be different form each other – but complementary to each other….still, the core of both paragraphs remains the same.
  • the paragraphs which form the ‘main body’ of the essay
    • usually, there are 3 paragraphs which form the ‘main body’ of the essay
    • each of these paragraphs focuses on 1 major idea which ‘proves’ or ‘supports’ the ‘point of view’ of the ‘main idea’ which is the focus (point) of the essay
    • each paragraph must be formatted so as to be able to stand on its own, even outside the essay.
    • the first and last sentences of each of these paragraphs must explain how the ‘focus’ of this paragraph and how it relates (supports) the focus of the essay.

In addition, it is important to address the language which is to be used in an essay.

Essays are written in complex sentences with use ‘formal’ language.  This means that no ‘I’ or ‘you’ statements are permitted.

Essays are a presentation of opinions and arguments.  Therefore, all statements such as ‘I think that’ or ‘I feel’ – and similar phrases which define ‘opinion’ are redundant and not permitted in essay-writing.

When utilizing the formal language expected in an essay, it is best to avoid contractions (i.e. write ‘was not’ rather than ‘wasn’t), all forms of slang ans well as colloquialisms.  In most cases, past tense is used.  Of course, this does not apply to any direct quotations which are used as support for the points in the essay.

Hopefully, this will clarify part 1 and 2, while explaining them more clearly.

Note:  this post has been edited to remove some typo’s….thanks to Mrs. Lu for spotting them!
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How to write an essay: part 2

Many students continue to struggle with essay-writing:  unnecessarily so!

Essays are such a structured method of conveying information, they are easily reduced into a ‘formula’ which can simply be filled in with the required information.  In other words, essays follow a very specific, internally repeating pattern.  As such, they are easily mastered – but only if one understands the ‘formula’!

In part 1, I attempted to explain how to organize one’s thoughts in order to clarify the ideas/information which an essay will convey. Lacking a better term, I called this the ‘why’ of the essay:  as in, ‘why’ is the essay being written (what ideas it is meant to convey).

Here, in part 2, I will provide some practical tools for the ‘how’:  the mechanics of the writing of an essay.  More specifically, I will describe the ‘original form’ of the method which I have tried and used and successfully taught to others.  (There is another ‘form’ of this method, which I have developed with the help of my older son who is an Aspie, and which works well for him….and when I write it up, I will link it here.)

Of course, some essays can be very complex:  here, I am attempting to establish the basics.  Therefore, I will present ‘the essay’ in the ‘barest’, ‘most basic’ form (or, at the level most high-school teachers expect an essay to be written).

OK, let’s begin!

When writing an essay, it is essential that the whole work maintains a central focus. (A formalized statement of this ‘main idea’ will function as the title of the essay.)  That is why it is useful to write the ‘main idea’ or ‘focus’ of the essay in a single expression:  in order to retain the focus throughout the essay, it will be referred to over and over.

In its barest form, an essay can be broken down into 2 parts:

  1. Stating the ‘main idea’/’point of view’ of the essay
    • this will form as the basis of the ‘opening paragraph’ (where it will be ‘introduced’) as well as the ‘closing paragraph’ (where it will be ‘summed up’).
  2. Providing evidence to support this ‘main idea’/’point of view’.  Most essays (at the beginner level) require 3 major ‘supporting’ ideas.
    • these will form the ‘body’ of the essay
    • each of these 3 points will become a separate paragraph
    • the eventual ‘focus’ of each of these paragraphs will be ‘how’ this particular ‘piece of evidence’ relates to the ‘main idea’ and supports the ‘point of view’.

Many students find it useful to put their ideas into a chart – either as ‘single words’ or ‘expressions’ or ‘point forms’.  Turns out, I can’t figure out how to insert a chart into this blog…but, if I could, it would look (with different formatting) something like this:

  • ‘main idea’
    • the focus of the essay:
      • ………………………………………………………………………………………….
    • re-stating the focus in formal way becomes the title of the essay:
      • ………………………………………………………………………………………….
  • ‘main idea’ + ‘point of view’ (step 1 from above)
    • this will form the core of the ‘opening paragraph’ as well as the ‘closing paragraph
      • ………………………………………………………………………………………….
  • ‘supporting evidence’ (usually, 3 pieces are expected)
    • simple list of 3 ‘ideas’ or ‘pieces of evidence’ which support the ‘main idea + point of view’ of this essay
      • ………………………………………………………………………………………….
      • ………………………………………………………………………………………….
      • ………………………………………………………………………………………….

It is a useful exercise to fill this ‘chart’ out before beginning the actual ‘act of writing’ of an essay:  it aids in maintaining focus and disciplines one to keep the arguments clear and concise.  For some students, this will be more than a simple exercise in discipline and focus:  it is the skeleton of the essay which they will go on to ‘flesh out’.

In part 3, I will address the specifics of how the individual paragraphs are to be structured (and the way in which the structure of each paragraph reflects the pattern of the essay).

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How to write an essay: part 1

Essays are a very structured method of presenting a particular point of view.

How to write an essay remains a mystery to a lot of people! Putting all those ideas onto paper and presenting them as ‘an essay’ can be a daunting task for many people.  (Where do I start? How do I finish?)

Yet, it does not have to be so!  Very often, once the structure of how an essay is ‘supposed to’ be written is explained, writing one becomes easy, because there is a way to break the process down into very easily manageable steps.  However, not every person comes across a teacher who has taken the time to explain this structure and how to ‘get there’…

Not understanding the underlying structure of an essay makes ‘writing essays’, well, difficult (especially Aspies).  Here, I would like to ‘fix’ this:  essays are so very structured that everyone – especially people who do not deem themselves to be ‘writers’ in other ways, can compose effective essays.

There are two fundamental things that need to be understood about ‘essays’:  the ‘why’ and the ‘how’.  (OK, these are more ‘philosophical’ distinctions than anything else – but they do capture at least one aspect of the meaning…)

The ‘how’ is simple mechanics – but the ‘why’ underlies each bit.  So, let’s tackle the ‘why’ first.

The why of an essay (as I am using the descriptive) is the reason for writing it:  its main point, what it is saying and how it is saying it.  Once a person has understood the ‘underlying structure of an essay, many of the steps listed below can be combined, or skipped altogether.  However, listing them separately is one of the ways in which a person can gain an understanding how to build an essay, one little idea at a time.

The why of an essay can be arrived at as follows:

  • Examine the ‘assignement’:  question or statement.
    • Sometimes, the ‘main point’ is assigned, sometimes it is up to the ‘writer’ to define the ‘main point.
    • The ‘point of view‘ – or, the way in which this ‘main point’ is demonstrated (what evidence is cited to support the ‘main point’, how the evidence is presented and how the conclusion is drawn out) – that is always something the ‘writer’ must choose and ‘fulfil‘.

    This ‘main point’ and ‘point of view/means of making the main point’ (for lack of better terms) constitute the ‘reason’ for writing the essay (aside from it having been assigned, that is…).  In other words, they define the main idea which the ‘writer’ will build the essay to convey/bring across.

  • Define the ‘main point’ (unless it is assigned).
    • find a single word (OK, the word can be ‘contorted’ and hyphenated amalgam of a few ‘normal’ words, or it can be an expression:  the main thing about ‘this word’ is that it is the simplest-possible way of expressing the very core of the ‘main point’ which is the central focus of the essay.
      • this ‘main point‘ must be both ‘simple’ and ‘core’, because the ‘main point’ of each of the paragraphs in the essay will be ‘compared’ to it.
      • this ‘main point‘ is the focus of the essay
      • this is what the essay will say
  • Define the ‘way of presenting the main point’ (point of view)
    • write a sentence which defines how the ‘main point‘ will be made.
      • again, the ‘sentence’ is more of a suggestion than a hard requirement:  a phrase or point-form, or any other method which is ‘understandable’ to the ‘writer’ is acceptable, because this is all part of the ‘brainstorming’ or ‘rough work’ that so many teachers request to be handed in along with the ‘good copy’ of the essay, to prove the person actually did the work (and to demonstrate to the teacher the chain of thought that took the essay from ‘concept’ to ‘finished product’:  many teachers actually assign marks to these steps…so, if they are not handed in, the marks reserved for these steps cannot be earned…
      • the main goal of this step is to clarify in one’s mind the method (reasoning, proof, etc.) of how the ‘main point’ will be presented
      • once this is clarified, putting it down will help ‘the writer’ maintain focus, because it will be available for constant ‘feedback’…and, as subsequent steps ‘ought to’ be compared back to both the ‘main point’ and ‘the main sentence’ (which, for lack of a better term, is how I refer to this step for the purposes of this post.
    • This section will serve as the basis for the ‘opening’ and ‘closing’ paragraphs of the essay.
  • Gather the evidence
    • this step involves ‘putting down’/’brainstorming’ the pieces of evidence which will be used to support/demonstrate/prove the ‘main idea’ of the story
    • again, this can be done in two steps:  first, as ‘one word’ concept, then as the more concrete ‘simple sentence/point form’ (which might list the page numbers of quotes to be referenced, and so on).
    • while it is recommended (for the sake of self-discipline) that the individual points be put into the form of simple sentences, this is in no way a requirement:  point form is just as effective.
    • it is recommended (in order to ‘fit’ the expectations of ‘most’ essay assignments) that 3 major pieces of evidence be listed.
      • While most of these ‘major points’ can be expanded, it is important to clarify in one’s mind (and putting it down is a good way of achieving this – and being able to refer back to it) the main thrust each of these major pieces of evidence will make.
      • The ‘minor points’ or ‘development’ of the ‘major points’ will come during a later step.  They are very important – but it is also easy to go ‘off topic’ and loose the focus of the essay while ‘developing’ these bits.  Therefore, it is better to put all of the ‘minor points’ or ‘developments’ of these ‘major points’ into a section marked ‘notes’, not list them as the ‘major points of focus’.

      These points will go on to form the ‘body’ of the essay (the paragraphs in between the opening and closing paragraphs):  each one of the ‘major points’ of evidence will have one paragraph of the essay devoted to it.

This should (I hope) explain the ‘why’ of essay-composition:  if it does not, or if it is confusing (or just plain wrong), please, let me know and I will do my best to explain/fix it.

The next post (link to be inserted) will address the ‘how’ of essay-writing.

Aspergers: ‘price’ and ‘punishment’

People with Asperger’s syndrome (Aspies) process information a little differently than most other people.  Some of us (well, OK, ‘we the Aspies’) would say that we process information much more logically!

This is a gift – but is also is a curse:  very often, we will arrive at a completely logical (and rather obvious) conclusion which is not only obvious to ‘us’, but somehow completely inaccessible to ‘others’.  Perhaps this is due to their social programming – I do not know:  I’m still trying to figure out the unpredictable reactions of ‘neurotypicals’ (NTs).

Let me give an example which demonstrates this most clearly and understandably.

Please, consider the way we (as a society) ‘forbid’ things.

We have a list of behaviours which are socially forbidden: from horrible things like murder to little things like ‘talking in class’. Oh, we do not treat each transgression equally (though SOME Aspies thing that might have made more sense) – our society considers some much more serious than others.  Yet, the fact remains, these various behaviours are all ‘forbidden’.

Aspies can deal with that:  IF, that is, we are given a very accurate explanation as to which behaviours are forbidden (often, explaining ‘why’ will help us figure out ‘what’ these prohibited behaviours are), and IF we are willing to accept the prohibition (which is most of the time), we WILL  respect it absolutely.

KNOWING that respecting the prohibition is part of the social contract we have with our fellow humans is enough.

However, our society does NOT stop at the prohibition itself!  Perhaps this is some misguided attempt at ‘labeling’ different ‘seriousness’ of transgressions, but the fact remains:  our society ascribes very specific ‘punishments’ to particular transgressions.

Of course, once a ‘punishment’ is assigned to a specific ‘transgression’, it removes that ‘transgression’ from the list of ‘forbidden’ behaviours:  it has become a ‘permitted behaviour with a price’!

I am not sure if I am doing a good job of explaining this to non-Aspies.  I have a hard time putting myself into their position with regard to this and seeing it the way I (and many, many Aspies do).  Perhaps an example would be useful:

This is a true story:  starring none other than my husband!

When my husband was in grade 7, he had a Math teacher who had a rule:  if you got caught talking in class, you had to ‘write lines’ (a full page of:  ‘I will not talk during class.’).

Of course, this made ‘not talking in class’ a thing which was not forbidden – rather, it was a thing which was ‘purchased’ with a page of ‘lines’.  And, liking to talk in class, he knew he would have to pay the price for it at one point or another.  Therefore, being the intelligent and foresightful person that he is, he would not indulge in an ‘expensive’ behaviour without having the ‘means to pay for it’, so to speak…

Thus, when the teacher ‘caught him’ talking in class and ordered him to write a page of ‘lines’, my husband (well, he was not my husband then, he was in grade 7 – but, you know what I mean) pulled a page of ‘lines’ from his knapsack and handed it over to the teacher!

For some weird reason, many teachers think this type of a thing is a ‘provocation’ of some type:  the reason for this escapes me (after all, the price was pre-set by the teacher), but I have come to understand that many NTs think that many very straigt-forward and logical reactions are somehow ‘provocations’.  Perhaps it is that they do not like to be reminded of the fact that they skipped a logical step along the way…

Whatever the reason, the teacher said something to the effects:  ‘Ah, so you think you are so clever, having your ‘lines’ all pre-done!  Well, in this instance, the punishment is TWO pages of ‘lines’!’

To which my husband responded – logically, I think – by producing a second sheet of ‘lines’ and handing them in  to the teacher!

THAT seemed to end things…

Again, I am not sure if I am explaining things in an ‘understandable’ way:  what I am trying to say is that, once an action has a specifically defined punishment associated with it, it is not really forbidden any longer:  to the contrary!  It is permitted, provided YOU are WILLING to PAY the pre-efined PRICE!

Therefore, it is not ‘advisable’ to have a ‘specific’ penalty assigned to a ‘misbehaviour’, when it comes to Aspies!

Now, I DO understand that for most NTs, knowing the ‘punishment’ is a part of the whole ‘consequences of actions’ bit – and therefore, it is a ‘good’ thing to define the exact punishment for various ‘forbidden’ behaviours.  Yet, I ALSO expect NTs to take a look at the logical conclusion:  once you put a ‘price’ on something, it is no longer ‘prohibited’, just ‘expensive’…

The moral of this post…

If something is ‘prohibited’, keep it ‘prohibited’ and do NOT make it merely ‘expensive’ by putting a ‘price’ on it!!!

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White flowers for Aisha

The story of Aisha Ibrahim Duhuhulow – the child who was stoned for the crime of being raped – has really touched me.

The young girl grew up under one application of Sharia, where ‘justice’ meant that rapists are caught and punished.  However, her local Mosque had come under ‘new management’:  the ‘elders’ (Islamic scholars) who now controlled it applied Sharia very, very differently.   Admitting to having been raped was interpreted by them as admitting to having had sexual intercourse outside of marriage, which is punishable by stoning.  And, while stoning her, the cleric, Sheik Hayakallah, continued to praise ‘sister Aisha’ for ‘wanting Sharia and its punishment to apply’!

And THIS is why Sharia – even if it were fully compatible with ‘Western’ laws and principles (which it is not) – is UNACCEPTABLE !!!

This ‘Islamic Law’ and its applications are not consistent:  the local Islamic leader has the authority to interpret it in any way he deems to be correct!  (This does not even take into consideration that there is no consensus as to what training (if any) a person requires in order to be an Imam or an ‘Islamic scholar’.  Currently, any man who considers himself to be knowledgeable of the Koran and the Sunnah can declare himself to be  an Islamic scholar and act as an Imam.)

Thus, a simple change of Imams at a Mosque could completely change the rules under which are ‘the laws’ which govern every aspect of public and private behaviour in the local community.  And, the people might remain completely unaware how the changed interpretation of Sharia will be meted out:  unaware, that is, until someone like Aisha gets stoned for having been raped!

THAT, in my never-humble-opinion, is a big problem!

As for Aisha, not only was her story criminally mis-reported (at first), she herself has remained faceless:  no amount of Googling has revealed any pictures online of the unfortunate girl.  (If you find one – please, let me know!)

Since I could not find a picture of her, I decided to paint one…  this is my impression of ‘Aisha’:


Then, someone posted this comment about Aisha:

I could not sleep for days after reading about Aisha’s tragedy. I would have wanted to bring flowers to her grave, but there was no grave to be reached. I felt so powerless!
But then I got the idea that we should all try and create a wave of sweetness and kindness in the love of Aisha, all over the world. May her death not have been in vain. Let us transform it into a stimulus to spread lovingkindness.
I decided to buy a bunch of white flowers and offer one of them, together with a 5 dollar bill and a piece of candy,to every homeless person I woud find at the railway station,
mentioning Aisha’s name and sending her a blessing every time.
I also made an offer to Amnesty international to honor her name.
Let us all do something, let us create a wave of white flowers and of kind actions so as to try and counterbalance the horror of her death. And let us pray for her, telling her we all love her.


What a beautiful idea:  the innocent blossom, plucked before her time!

White Flowers for Aisha

White Flowers for Aisha

This is my take on ‘White Flowers for Aisha‘!  What is yours?

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