Bits and Pieces

In case some of you haven’t noticed, I’m now twittering, which amounts to writing the occasional update to what I’m doing with my life. The “tweets” as they are called show up in the right column over there. Go check it out.

Also, I bought my own domain name this weekend, You will all want to update your bookmarks to get to my blog which is now at I’ll also find some time to get an actual Web site up at Eventually.

TaTa, and happy Monday.

Cleaning House

No, this isn’t a post about my favorite dusting devices. Nor is it about the fact that I need a vacuum cleaner. Badly.

This is a post about Communications Career Day. I cleaned house.

I didn’t really know what to expect going into the luncheon today, an annual event at which the Communications Department gives out a few scholarships and other awards to its students for their work over the year(s). I guess I thought it would be nice to win a scholarship.

Well, fortunately and maybe amazingly, I won three. It’s basically incredible, because I’m losing my Tennessee Lottery Scholarship after the fall semester. Unless, of course, Tennessee’s lawmakers get off their duff and do something with the scholarship revision legislature instead of passing it from one committee to another, to the Senate/House floor and back again.

So assuming that our state government will follow its style of incapacitation, I needed these scholarships pretty badly, if for no other reason than to save the money from fall for spring.

I’m going to bet that not too many of the Communications faculty read my blog on a regular basis, but if you’re out there, thanks for thinking of me.

Photo Lesson for Wednesday

I know that there are myriad photo lesson Web sites out there in the vastness of the Internet. (It is a series of tubes, after all.)

Today I reminded of a very valuable lesson about the importance of white balance that I think the world should at least have the opportunity to read. So with a little Fleetwood Mac on the iTunes (Don’t Stop/Yesterday’s Gone – the live version with what sounds to be a marching band accompanying them) let’s get down to it.

Backstory: As I was riding my bike to Gooch today from my voice lesson I passed the awesome tree shown above, which is right outside of the Honors Center. You can tell spring is coming just by looking at the tree, and for once I noticed it. Hey, sorry tree. I’ve been busy lately.

So as luck would have it, my camera was waiting for me in The Pacer office. I let Will borrow it yesterday to photostaff Cheryl DeYeso’s art show. He left his in that place that he lives. Not sure where that is exactly…

Anyway, I get up to the office and throw my stuff in my chairs—yes I need two, one for sitting and one for stuff—and then grab the camera.

Unsure of go about shooting the beauty in the world outside, I headed to Tomi’s office for a morning Reese’s break. Then it occurred to me: Tomi’s window looks down on the tree, adding a unique perspective to my tree.

“Perfect!” I think. Only there’s one problem. The blasted rain has covered Tomi’s window in a stippling of water droplets, but I decided they would just have to add to the effect.

I saddle up to the window and move the blinds, then take my first few shots. It takes a little time as I wait for students to be out of the shot (or in the shot if they are interesting enough).

Tomi comes in about half-way through my shoot.

“What are you doing?!” she asks in a typical Tomi voice that could just have well been asking why I had been stupid enough to staple my fingers together or something.

“I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to shoot this tree. Have you noticed it lately?” I responded. Her curiosity satisfied, we both went about our business like nothing was strange about me hovering over her computer desk to photograph a tree. She’s cool like that.

The lesson here: I kept wondering what I could do to fix how gray/blue my first few photos were. I couldn’t capture the light as it actually showed up in front of me, and it was frustrating. But then I came to my senses—too blue (cool) means white balance! A quick switch from auto white balance to the cloudy preset was all it took to yield the difference shown in the comparison photo at the top of the post. Pretty much awesome.

That does it for today. Just remember to keep white balance in mind when in the field on a cloudy day!

The Future

Ever wonder what the future may have in store?

Boy I sure do.

In case you are wondering, this post is only semi-professional in nature, but I didn’t want to go to the trouble of using Dreamweaver to update my mCook Web site. I know. I’m a slacker. Whatev.

So anyway, back to the future. (It’s good to be punny sometimes.)

At some point in my life I stopped daydreaming on a regular basis about how I wanted my future to turn out. I don’t know why; I don’t know when. I just stopped. Maybe I was disillusioned, maybe hurt from a relationship or two…but regardless, I stopped doing it on a regular basis.

Now, “regular basis” are two key words there. I still daydream from time to time, and I do think about the future, but these days I’m more apt to be planning for the future instead of dreaming, waiting for it to come smack me in the face.

A few things have made me aware of this:

1) Spring Break free time. Spring Break has been good, mostly. I haven’t accomplished nearly as much as I wanted to/should have. I need to read more about Berlin. I definitely need to get caught up in meteorology. I’m like four labs and six chapters behind. No joke. But the break has had its high points, too. I’ve had three birthday dinners, and my birthday was a week ago. That’s pretty amazing. Take my advice: turn 21 as often as you can. People like to feed you at this age, apparently. Other than just my stomach, the rest of me has enjoyed the break by relaxing, sleeping in, playing cards/catch with K and family. All of the free time has given me plenty of opportunities to think, and that has been the primary reason for becoming aware of my lack of future-dreaming.

2) The second reason for remembering how I used to think my future would turn out came about from an unlikely source —pulling a box of cards off of my bookshelf last week that haven’t been used since middle school. Back in the day, a couple friends and I would spend every day we had off from school and half the summer playing cards at one of their mom’s office in downtown Martin and then go (religiously) at three o’clock to the local card shop (at the time) Home Plate. This was our heyday of dreaming and (dare I say) scheming. We started playing guitars. We started wishing we could drive. We started thinking about girls. (Well, at least I did.) And then high school came. And we lost one of our friends to a move to Massachusetts. And then I got bogged down with school and stuff (and girls…and band…etc.) And somewhere in there the blinders were put on so that I couldn’t see much past graduating high school.

3) The final reason for becoming aware of the lack of future-dreaming is that my brother-in-law Blair told us tonight that he won’t be going to UK for grad school, at least next year. He’s still waiting on East Carolina University, which is another fine music school. The trouble is, the geography program at ECU isn’t stellar and it doesn’t have the focus that I want for grad school.

As you can probably guess, I let myself dream a little when he said he was applying at UK because UK has an excellent grad program in human geography, and so I started looking a little closer at what they had to offer. I had a dream. There’s no telling what may happen with that dream. I would be happy even if the four of us (B, my sister, K and me) didn’t end up in the same area after we leave Martin, but I can’t help but think that it would be much more fun and enjoyable if we all did end up in the same place.

The odds aren’t exactly stellar for us ending up at the same university, given that there are only a handful of universities with great music schools and great human geography programs. Dreaming was fun for a while, but realism inevitably settles in and sets up shop.

I am a self-described realist; others often confuse this for pessimism. Some people wonder why I am a realist, and I’m not entirely sure why I see the world the way I do, but I suspect that it comes down to change and how it is handled. Change has made me strive to see what is real, what is out there in black and white, instead of what would be ideal.

Change has made me a writer, an editor, a geographer, a traveler, a Germanophile, and lately, a supporter of the Democratic party. There, I said it. I want Barrack Obama to be our next president. But enough politics. In high school, and certainly in middle school, I would have called you liar if you told me I’d be all those things in 4-8 years.

I don’t have a witty saying to end this post, and I don’t really want to search for an inspiring JFK quote to show that maybe there is still some hope for the future.

But I did anyway.

Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.” ~John F. Kennedy

Water, water…

Live, from the Dixie, it’s Tuesday night!

I’m sitting in the basement of the Dixie Carter, set to perform in under an hour for the West Tennessee Higher Education Symposium’s annual choral festival. As interesting as that is…it’s mostly hot and crowded.

Which leads me to my point: Water is amazing.

I realize that was a poor transition. Get over it.

I’ve been meaning to blog for the last two weeks about how amazing water is. Meteorology in particular has heightened my awe of the precious molecule H2O.

I drink around two to three liters of water a day. People say that is great. I say they should drink more (cough cough, Karen…) The body is made of what, 50 to 70 percent water? And yet, people pump themselves full of dehydrating carbonated sugar water (e.g. soda) instead of the good stuff. Granted, I’m a little susceptible to the ole Diet Dr. Pepper, but I still drink water like it’s going out of style.

But water does more than just fill our bodies and make us feel guilty about not drinking enough at New Years.

Water destroys mountains. Water fills deltas and river beds with silt, making regions like the Nile, the Rhein and the Mississippi fertile enough to support millions of people through agricultural production.

Water makes geologists and physical geographers look bad, because their precious rocks and landforms are no match for water. Most earth scientists will claim that they embrace water’s effects, but I suspect they are just covering their envy of its power.

Basically, water makes me happy…so respect that.

Let’s play catch up

So, as promised nearly two months ago, I’m uploading photos from Reelfoot today. It’s the first real chance I’ve had since before break. To my defense, I was gone and busy for most of the break. Now that I’m back, I’m swamped with homework and myriad other things. Just know that I’m slacking off for you. Check out the results here.

With any luck I’ll be able to go through my photos from Choir Tour and upload them to Flickr in the near future. Then I would like to record some thoughts about California, Arizona and Nevada in the blog. We’ll see what happens.

Reelfoot Lake

Today Karen and I took a departure from our normal Friday schedules and went with Dr. Mark Simpson and Helmut Wenz to Reelfoot Lake with part of Dr. Simpson’s Geography 201 (Physical Geography) class.

It was a lot of fun, however cold, but I was able to get some decent photo work done while the sun was out. I need the photos to use in my Scholar’s research and to include in my PowerPoint presentation for Geography 201 (Methods in Geoscience) next Tuesday. We are giving presentations summarizing the literature reviews we have worked on this semester. I still need to add more lit to mine…so it should be a fun weekend.

I’ll post the photos on Flickr sometime later for those interested.

What are the goals of terrorism?

Is anybody up to reading an essay? I wrote this last night (a little over 1,000 words) and I’m looking for a good critique. It’s all that is on my mind right now, geographically speaking, right now so somebody read it!

*Begin long essay*
What are the goals of terrorism?
In a post-9/11 world in which so much media attention is given to the various forms and acts of terrorism both at home and abroad, almost all Americans have been affected by terrorism either directly or psychologically. Many do not even know how to define terrorism, as its meaning has changed numerous times since the word originated in the French Revolution (White 2003:5). The best way to characterize terrorism may be to explain what it is not: it is not conventional warfare, in which both sides in the fight are comprised of standard militaries from a country or countries. It is not merely guerrilla warfare, in which smaller forces use surprise attacks on a larger military organization to achieve its goals. However, it is possible for a group to carry out terrorist attacks in the midst of these types of conflicts. Thus, in order to define terrorism as different from these forms of warfare, the question “What does terrorism have as its goal?” must be answered.

According to Glassner and Fahrer (2004:292), terrorism is the use of violence or threatened violence against anybody in society, including innocent civilians, in order to achieve a political goal. This definition, however, is broad and could arguably be considered a part of conventional or guerilla warfare, as those situations also involve the use of violence to achieve political goals, and civilians are frequently affected in addition to military personnel. Examining the goals of religious, ethnic, and nationalistic terrorists will help clarify the definition. This paper seeks to examine the goals of these types of terrorism using a selection of modern acts of terrorism as examples and the implications these have for the future of terrorism.

Goals of religious terrorism
Religious terrorism, according to Hoffman (1998:94), often becomes a holy act for the terrorist that is justified as a “necessary expedient for the attainment of their goals.” Those engaged in religious terrorism may attempt to push their religion or morality onto others and likely consider themselves to be at war with anyone not of the same mindset. Hoffman (1998:95) believes that this creates a much larger set of “enemies” for the religious terrorist.

Muslims, Jews, and Christians have all committed acts of terror to convert people to their God or [eliminate] opposition. Islamic terrorism is the most widely known variety of religious terrorism, coming from the desire of Islamic extremists to spread Islamic law (like that in Iran) to other Muslim States and the conversion of non-Muslim States to Islam. As Hoffman points out, the Iranian Ayatollah Khomeini told his followers in 1980, “We must strive to export our Revolution throughout the world,” (1998:95). The declaration of jihad on Americans and Jews in 1998 by Osama bin Laden was made because he said Americans were occupying the Arabian Peninsula (Islamic holy land) and “plundering its riches, dictating to its rulers, humiliating its people … and turning its bases in the Peninsula into a spearhead through which to fight the neighboring Muslim people” (Washington Post 1998: n.p.). This was the justification needed by al Qaeda to carry out the [attacks] on the World Trade Center and Pentagon in 2001.

Jews and Christians have also been involved in terrorist acts, though not as widely publicized by Western media. Jews terrorists under Rabbi Meir Kahane have, since the 1980s, performed acts of violence and terrorism against Arab – largely Palestinian – groups in Israel (Hoffman 1998:100-101). Kahane’s doctrine promoted hatred of Arabs and claimed that no Arab liked Jews. This policy fueled an Israeli terrorist movement to remove or exterminate Arabs in the traditional holy lands promised to Israel in the Torah.

Goals of ethnic and nationalistic terrorism
Ethnic and nationalistic terrorism, also called secular terrorism, has become an ever-increasing problem since the end of World War II and the decline of European imperialism (Hoffman 1998:45-46). As nations relinquished control over colonies, they often left different ethnic groups at a disadvantage as a minority in the newly independent country, leaving the door open for terrorism in the future. These ethnic groups, under oppression or without representation in what used to be their land, attempt to terrorize the government and ethnic majority into giving them their own country or at least some representation. According to White (2003:187), “ethnic terrorists attempt to forge national identity. … When the inevitable government persecution follows terrorist actions, it draws attention to the group and allows the terrorists to present themselves as victims.” An ethnic terrorist attack may also turn into full blown war if the ultimate goal is to overthrow the government entirely.

One modern example of ethnic terrorism include the PKK’s (Kurdistan Workers Party) actions and attacks in southern Turkey to push for the creation of Kurdistan (Durham, Rogers 2007). The Kurdish ethnic group was made a minority in four nations after British and French imperialism in the Middle East ended. This fractioning has spun off terrorism as the PKK and other Kurds seek their own land and control of their own affairs. Other examples of ethnic terrorism include the Irish Republican Army using terrorism for the creation of an independent Ireland (White 2003:78-91).

The future of terrorism
According to Glassner and Fahrer (2004:292-3), fighting terrorism can take two forms: anti-terrorism and counter-terrorism. Anti-terrorism is defensive in nature in that it attempts to prevent terrorist attacks on people and places. Counter-terrorism is the use of military force against terrorists. Glassner and Fahrer argue that neither type is capable of effectively stopping terrorism, but that the only way to stop terrorism is to fix the situation that created the problem. This isn’t easy, particularly when dealing with religious terrorism that wants nothing more than to convert the world to a single religion. Other terrorist situations, however, may be capable of being solved without a full blown war against the terrorist organization. Terrorism is likely to continue in the near future as the preferred method of warfare by extremist organizations because of the difficulty of predicting and stopping terrorist attacks.


Durham, W. and J. Rogers. 2007. Lectures from Geography 462, University of Tennessee at Martin.
Glassner, M. and C. Fahrer. 2004. Political Geography. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Hoffman, B. 1998. Inside terrorism. New York: Columbia University Press.
White, J. 2003. Terrorism: an introduction. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/Thompson Learning.
Washington Post. 1998. English translation of “Jihad against Jews and Crusaders.” Available online at (last accessed 14 November 2007).

*End long essay*
Comments and corrections are appreciated.
[Recent updates in brackets, thanks for pointing them out. 🙂 ]

The Professional Blog of Matt Cook

So I started another Web site today…another blog. I just can’t help myself sometimes. That’s not to say I’m abandoning mCook, but as that site clearly states, it is the [somewhat] professional blog of me.

This is to be the professional blog. It will last long after mCook at UT Martin dies (I have to graduate sometime, after all.) And so for that reason, I decided to go ahead and get a Blogger account (conveniently tied to my Google account) set up.

Geographic Musings