Tuesday, April 1, 2014

April Fools Day: What Not to Do

I got a meme on Facebook today about April Fools Day pranks that went "very, very wrong."  So, in the spirit of the day, (and I REALLY really love pranks), I thought I'd share what seems to be some common sense advice on not having the prank end in disaster.

1.  If the prank leads to someone believing something that any sane person would respond to by calling the police, don't do it.  Such pranks include calling someone and saying you're being robbed or that...you killed someone.  It's not funny, and someone will probably phone the police, wasting their time.

2.  If your prank involves people working really hard to get a reward they won't get, you're abusive.  Don't do that.

3.  If your prank involves the media, don't say something that, if believed, would require a response such as a mass evacuation, people leaving work, people speeding down the highway in fear of their lives.

4.  If your prank involves making light of a serious matter.  Stop.  Rape, murder, and death aren't funny, so don't lead anyone to believe something having to do with those types of things has happened.  Always imagine the after-effects.  You really think people will be splitting their guts in laughter because you really weren't raped?  They'll be relieved then they'll be pissed.

5.  Don't surprise people with heart problems or epilepsy.

6.  Don't be racist or a-holie.  That should be a given.  The a-holie thing involves hurting someone.  "Ha, ha, I stole your laptop and posted the sex video you made with your wife all over the Internet!!"  No.  "Ha!  It's so funny that I punched you!"  No.  "Ha, I posted your picture in the office with a racial slur or some stupid racist  innuendo!"  No.  "Ha, I taped poop under your desk, and now it's all over your knees!"  No.  "Ha!  I let the air out of your tires just before you went to work!"  No.

Generally speaking, if your prank involves doing something that a scorned lover or a mad ex-employee might consider doing for revenge, it's not a good prank.

The bottom line is that pranks should result in laughter, you know, for everyone involved.  If you're the only one laughing, you're not really pranking people.  You're abusing them--unless nobody got hurt and the prank was simply not funny.  Pranks can be sometimes borderline questionable.  We all do it.  One year I pranked my husband into thinking I was pregnant with twins.  See, it wasn't that far off, because I was already pregnant.  I had a doctor's appointment ON April Fools Day, so I came home, searched for an ultrasound image of twins at my gestation period, and I photoshopped the image to change the last name and the dates to fool my poor husband into thinking we had a hidden twin in there.  :)  He tried really hard to remain stoic, but he deflated with relief like an over-filled balloon when I told him, "April Fools!"  It was only marginally funny.  At least I learned he was up for the challenge.

Good pranks go like this...

1.  If the prank involves someone reacting in a way that doesn't involve the police, doesn't include a mass evacuation of a city, or people leaving work, or someone hiring a lawyer, but DOES result in everyone (including the pranked people) laughing hysterically, then go for it.

That's it.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

What's Wrong With the World: a 12 Year Old's Response...

What’s wrong with the world?

We don't know anything about it.
We aren't that strong at all. We aren't smart.
We aren't powerful. We aren't the greatest.

WE are still killed and mauled by tons
of other animals. How dare
us think that we are the greatest--
that we are superior to a rabbit--
that we know what we are doing.

We may have been able to create wars
and separate lands
and different governments,
but that doesn't make us the most likely
to survive.

We are scared of each other.
That's what's wrong with it.

--Sierra, 12 years old.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Washington Redskins to Washington Redfeathers?

The following video is going viral through Twitter and Facebook during the Super Bowl weekend.  Think about what being a Native American means.  Think about the news we hear on our national television shows that discuss issues the various nations are dealing with:  probably none.  Native Americans are not merely historical people who once traversed the abundant landscape of the Americas.  They're here.  Some are doctors, or teachers, or construction workers.  Some are mothers and daughters and sisters of someone else.  Some are fathers and sons and brothers and cousins. Many people of various nations are children.  Some are light skinned.  Some are dark skinned.   None of them are "redskins."

David Skinner of Slate Magazine attempted to unearth the origin of the term redskin.  The term may have had a benign beginning, but it certainly had been used eventually in less than admirable contexts.  Skinner offers accounts of historians who seek to determine whether the word redskin is actually offensive.  The video, Proud To Be, answers the question.  Regardless of how any group of people or any specific individual aims to reflect on the origin of the word, it is apparent it is not welcomed. If you call me a fat cow, and I say that I am offended, there is no need to pour through historical contexts of cows and fatness to determine whether or not such nomenclature is offensive.  I'm telling you it offended me.  What's remarkable though, is that there's more to the name and logo of the Washington Redskins than just the simplicity of a potentially offensive name.

In the beginning of the year 2014, Emily Johnson Dickerson, the last person who only spoke the Chickasaw language died. She was one of only 65 people who could speak the language fluently. There isn't a "Native American" society or culture that is homogenous, nor are the current descendants of the original Native Americans obsolete; however, the fight to change the reduction of "a people" which is really a wide range of peoples into some kind of highly stereotyped idea of one kind of person is more at the core of the fight to change the Redskins name and logo than it is about the name being racially insensitive.  It's about recognizing the successes, struggles and humanity of people who are still here living in the modern world with modern concerns.

Looking through the comments to the video surprised me.  Many people feel it's time for the Washington D.C. football team to discard a name that is obviously offensive to many groups of people.  One commenter exclaimed that the name is a tribute to Native Americans, to which there is remarkable response:  If the Indian Mascot Could Speak.  Some feel that the name is a tribute to the team's history. Some people just don't want to change the name.  I found a good many websites that have offered suggestions for new logos and names, but many of the logos digress greatly from the history of the team.  Many of them are quite different from the original concept in shape and logo.  So I pondered and pondered on a way to keep the "red" and keep the feel without disgracing the bravery of the team nor the various nations of people for whom the current name marginalizes. The team has once changed its name from the Washington Braves to the Washington Redskins.  It can do it again, like a phoenix rising from the ashes stronger than it was in its previous existence.  If the team changes its name, it would demonstrate something powerful and real.

Four people will probably see the logo, but it's the idea that matters.  My idea is to connote the feathers of a phoenix.  Since the team had played in the same field as the Red Sox, the "red" just feels sort of attached to the team.  Redskins; however, is  insulting.  It plagues me that the name still offends people, yet so many people are unwilling to consider a potential change. As one twitterer, @Amanu360 said, "When a people say its insulting. Trust them."  Follow #notyourmascot on Twitter to see the amazing reasons why many people are in solidarity about changing the name.

I'm quite sure there's a better way to design the phoenix, and there are probably a billion better fonts for the name.  In fact, there are probably many better ideas all together.  Almost anything is better than reducing various nations of people to mascots.  People aren't costumes.  They aren't ideas, and they are watching, hearing, and seeing these reductions of themselves.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Being a Mom is Mediocre Work

Amy Glass wrote a blog entry, "I look Down on Young Women with Husbands and Kids,"  that sparked a bunch of bleating from women who have kids.  She said, "Women will be equal with men when we stop demanding that it be considered equally important to do housework and real work. They are not equal. Doing laundry will never be as important as being a doctor or an engineer or building a business. This word play is holding us back."  She also said that it's more impressive if a woman backpacks across Asia than if she has a kid, because literally anyone can have kids.  

Here's the thing, a woman who doesn't want to have children is kind of a hero.  They aren't looked too kindly on by their friends and family (and society at large).  It seems easy, right?  If you don't want children, don't have them, but being a woman makes that decision a really debatable topic.  A woman who has decided she doesn't want children has to constantly explain why.  She has to hear that she's making a bad decision and that she'll change her mind (because everyone knows what any woman is going to think in the future, right?).  To add some glitter to the nagging voice of moms who beg for grandchildren,  sound-bites of maternal glory can be a bit annoying.  "Being a mother is the most fulfilling job a woman can ever have," and "Being a parent is the hardest job a woman can ever do," are kind of a smack in the face to women who have decided they aren't mommy-types.  

Maybe that's why Amy Glass is so vitriolic towards parenthood.  She sees it as an over-hyped glorification of something that most women do.  What's so special about that decision, when it's an even more difficult decision not to have kids? Her point falls really flat on the eyes of most readers, because she's making superficial, highly subjective comparisons.  Becoming an engineer is an incredible feat; however, we don't all have the skills nor the desire to work as engineers.  Some of us don't feel pinned or trapped (too much, anyway) by being parents.  We love seeing our children grow and learn, yet it is challenging.  The feminist movement sprouted in an environment of minimizing what women did at home.  

Just because we are women and love our children doesn't make the job easy.  It's not just about housework either.  We're teaching our children science and math; attempting to teach our boys physical boundaries and respect for women; focusing on teaching our daughters confidence and self-esteem; worrying about nutrition and avoiding obesity-related illnesses; trying to develop empathy in our children; and keeping these unexpectedly strong small people clean and well rested despite their innate desire to remain dirty and awake.  Kids are people.  Their personalities will shock and disrupt the most ordinary of tasks.  You can do almost no housework and be exhausted by the time the spouse gets off work.  Working moms are balancing time with their children with their careers and with their children's need for socialization.  Stay-at-home moms are struggling to find a balance between being the 24/7 mom and finding personal improvement.  A lot goes into parenting, and most of us are completely naive at how challenging parenting really is until we become parents ourselves--thus the common usage of those annoyingly familiar phrases about fulfillment and hard work.

We parents do in fact find a great sense of fulfillment from what we do.  We may personally find it to be even more fulfilling that personal achievements, but that doesn't necessarily mean that we are superior in any way, nor does it mean we don't find ways to seek personal achievements.  When our kids do something for themselves or we observe them sticking up for the picked-on kid at the park, chills run from our fingertips through our entire bodies.  That's real fulfilment to us.  We're growing human beings, and we make mistakes and it is also possible to completely suck at it.  You can also pass your way through college with mediocre scores and become a crappy engineer.  How you own your life is your business, so long as you don't muck it up for the rest of us.

Parenting is probably the only "achievement" that anyone really sort of lauds after a certain age.  There's a shocking break from normal adolescent narcissism to adult responsibility once we pierce the veil of our mid-twenties.  People love when young people do exceptional things.  But when you're a full-fledged adult, people aren't as interested in whether you've improved on a musical instrument, learned a new language or even backpacked across another country.  Understanding that we're adults now, and we're expected to make our own self-improvement decisions without a bunch of praise may wax a bit deflating.  But if you have kids, you can get some praise. And if you do something challenging, like get a degree or travel, the praise is a little easier to come by, "You did that and you're a parent?"  So if you don't have kids, I imagine it's nearly impossible to get the respect and admiration for any of your achievements.  I wonder how old this Amy Glass woman is?  She should feel proud of her accomplishments without asking for praise or demeaning other people's life choices, I think.     

In short, women who don't have or want kids can lead incredibly fulfilling lives.  They won't necessarily be lonely old hags when they die  (some of the bleating in the comments to her blog gave her the "you'll never know the joy" jab and the "you're gonna die lonely because you don't want kids" poke). They may weave large social nets and impart nuggets of love and wisdom to their nieces, nephews, neighbor's kids and God children.  They will certainly be able to leave a legacy.  Or they can be selfish and leave nothing great behind.  Some parents won't leave anything great behind either, so really, it's all relative.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Rural Students: Five Surprising Challenges

For schools that educate a wide geographic range of students, including remote rural students, leaders should consider the impact that the student's distance from school may have on his academic progress, especially for schools that educate remote rural children from lower-income neighborhoods. The understanding of the impacts of distance to school are particularly important for schools in which the rural population represents a small percentage of the school population. Students who travel a significant distance to school are often a minority in a school populated primarily by students who live within a few miles of the school, so it is important that educators consider the possible disadvantages that these students face in a school with a structure designed for students who live nearby.
Kids may not be able to socialize. Kids in rural communities may not have much to do to occupy their time. Oftentimes, children who are bussed miles from their homes may develop relationships with other children from class who live miles from their home. Social development is integral to an overall academic picture for children. Kids in remote locations may not live near children of their same age or academic level, so having friends with whom they can share homework or study times is nearly impossible. Many remote rural locations, especially those in unincorporated districts have little to no support services available to residents, such as libraries, parks and community centers. People living in these areas may need to drive ten miles or more to get to these kinds of amenities, so daily access to them may be impossible for students who live in remote locations.
Parents can foster out-of-school socialization by involving their children in activities outside of school that coordinate with the parent's schedule and income. A weekly trip to the library or a community-based class could prove beneficial toward the student's ability to discover new friends outside of school who have common interests.
After-school activities may be impossible. For students who live 15 to 20 miles from their schools, being able to participate in after-school activities which require parental pick-up may be impossible, especially for lower-income students. Some students may have no or limited access to transportation, and the distance from the school to the home may mean that parental time constraints when leaving work may make picking a child up from school nearly impossible.  Continue reading about rural students' challenges here...

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Fat Shaming, Moderation, and McDonald's: Obesity Conversation Misses the Mark

Fat shaming isn't just about scolding fat people and saying they're not worthy.  It's about the blatant discrimination on health:  the "Your complete humanity is marked by laziness and you're living your entire life the wrong way," mantra.

I think I understand some component to obesity.  I'm on to something, sort of, despite not really being any kind of expert, but hey, this is my blog and you stepped into my opinion.  Here it is:

Dr. Atkins, Dr. Lustig, and Dr. Eades (and Dr. Eades) all talk about carbohydrates and the conversion into fat.  The Atkins diet seems to work for many people, but they gain weight if they stop.  Dr. Lustig talks about sugar and fatty liver and how eating too many refined sugars can lead to problems if the energy is not quickly used and converted.  Dr. Eades and Dr. Eades started a protein revolution by thwarting too many carbohydrates, upping the protein and upping the fiber content in carbohydrate laden foods.  These low-carb diets are different (think Paleo and South Beach too), but share some common threads.  Obesity started increasing in the 70's with the more prolific use of cheap high fructose corn syrup that found its way into buns, ketchup, sauces, and a plethora of other foods.

A simple observation will show us that not all people who eat processed food get fat, though some do.  I can't help but wonder if some people are more predisposed to having an adverse reaction to eating processed foods.  If that's the case, then a video that I watched of a professor who ate McDonald's every day and lost weight is super dangerous.

When people talk about obesity and genetics, I think the misconception is that by linking genetics to obesity, we're trying to fool people into believing that obese people are just genetically larger, even if they eat the same calories as their thinner counter-parts.  That's not what the genetics is about.  Your DNA is a map to your ancestors who survived.  Your DNA explains a survival trait.  You have that DNA because whatever traits your ancestors had in the past helped them to survive over others for the time and place.  That doesn't mean it's always great to have those traits.  For example, people with sickle-cell anemia can more aptly survive in malaria outbreaks.  Its better to have that trait when living in an area infested with mosquitos that carry malaria than it is not to have that trait.  If you have it, you and people with that genetic trait are more likely to survive and have children to whom you will give that trait.

That said, some people will eat processed foods such as McDonalds, instant ramen, boxed noodle dinners, and they will just eat until they are full, metabolize their meals, and they may have enough energy to move more, fidget and stay at an optimal weight.  Others may find that, over time, their appetites increase without much thought.  They will be converting more energy into fat, feeling more sluggish, and will continue eating a slight surplus of calories.  They  may start at a healthy weight and find that over time they gain weight, diet, gain it back and feel crappy about it.  Sometimes if they have these issues, a change in lifestyle or physical limitation or interruption (pregnancy, broken foot, change in job), may exacerbate it.  I think some people are born with the predisposition to be affected by food that is low in fiber and high in calories--they are large as babies and children and they continue to gain weight despite being fully aware of proper nutrition and the importance of exercise.

I think too many people are quick to judge overweight and obese people as having some desire to gorge themselves thoughtlessly without wondering why and how someone can end up eating so much without discomfort, or why it is so increasingly difficult for these people to "moderate" their food.  The experiment that John Cisna did showing how moderate consumption of McDonalds with an exercise routine can result in weight loss is dangerous.  He neglects the possibility that not all overweight and obese people start out eating super-sized meals--that eating this food only occasionally may begin a cycle of disrupted internal hormonal balances in some people that contributes to stronger cravings for fatty foods and more pronounced appetites for larger portions of foods.  It neglects the very real possibility that for some people, even a moderate buying of these types of foods can result in the potential for a resistance to the hormone that signals satiation.

I don't think McDonald's is to blame for our obesity epidemic, but I don't think obese people are overtly to blame for their weight gain (or weight since birth) either.  The problem is that more and more, we have been eating foods with lower nutritional value, lower fiber content, and higher calories.  That really can affect people for the worse in many cases.  As a youth, I ate this food all the time and was not overweight.  My body changed over time, and as an adult, I don't and haven't eaten the same types of foods I did as a kid, but I do believe that some people are more prone to having disrupted body systems over time as a result of heightened consumption of processed, low fiber, low nutritional foods, even if they start out eating it in moderation--within a normal and safe caloric range.

Fat shaming discounts that potential too.  Fat shamers are perceiving obesity as a character flaw.  Some fat shamers only exercise occasionally--eat that food and can't understand why it's so hard to stay slender.  Of course, if you are thin and occasionally eat fast food, exercise once in a while, and just avoid the really fatty stuff, you'll see obesity as probably self-induced.  If you aren't struggling to reduce what you eat--if you don't feel compelled to eat a snack or go back for seconds, it's easier to see obesity as a problem for people who are lazy or gluttonous.  The scary thought, though, is that there are plenty of young people now who are thin but who drink colas and eat pizza at parties and chow on fast food during their high school or college lunch breaks.  Many of them probably see obesity as a problem for the lazy, and a third of them--including current young fat shamers, will probably become obese by adulthood--because they think they have to do something excessive and remarkable to gain that much weight, so they don't realize that what they're eating now is poising their bodies to demand weight gain.  One day they will stop eating the pizza and colas, begin yo-yo dieting and wonder why it's so hard to reduce their caloric intake.

Friday, December 27, 2013

The Meaning of Love and Music

When I was younger, I told everyone that I loved the piano.  I said that I loved playing, and I believed that I loved it, but I was wrong.  I really, really wanted to learn difficult pieces and be this picture of a young girl perched atop a piano bench playing my favorite Chopin pieces (and I didn't even pronounce his name correctly when I first learned about him).  I idealized what it meant to play piano so much that I didn't even hear the music.  I didn't enjoy the soft touches of the keys.  I didn't absorb the magic of learning to read music.  I wanted to be in a relationship with the piano--a mystical beautiful instrument, but I really didn't love it.

I didn't know what love was.

The thing is, I now have a good relationship with the piano.  I'm not an expert.  I'm still learning, and I love playing the simple pieces.  I'm okay with not playing showy ragtime pieces or revolutionary etudes.  I'm not doing it for the idea of it.  I play when I want to hear the pieces evolve.  Wanting to skip to showy pieces was a big mistake when I was younger, because I didn't spend time learning the keys on the piano.  I didn't relish in practicing reading or focusing on accuracy.  I never played any piece I ever attempted exceptionally well enough for it to be as beautiful as it was intended to be.

I quite enjoy sort of starting from scratch--flipping through my spiral-bound copy of, "The Easiest Book of Piano Favorites," or "John Thompson's Modern Course for the Piano:  Second Grade Book," --and playing C.P.E Bach's Solfeggietto forever and ever and ever until I can get the phrasing correct.

I have two pieces of music memorized:  Solfeggietto and Moment Musical by Schubert. That's it.  They aren't impressive pieces, nor do I play them exceptionally well, but I practice them on occasion after reading and playing scales.  I am not a pianist.  I thought I wanted to be a pianist at one time in my life, but I was wrong.  I am a person who plays the piano.  And I really love playing the piano now.