Archive for April, 2010

30
Apr
10

Independent Parties

Gov. Charlie Crist announced Thursday that he is leaving the Republican party to run independently for the United States Senate.

I’d like to see more of this.

Our two-party political system just isn’t working for this country. As the article points out, the campaign strategy consists of two stages: move far to the right or left to secure your party base, and then to the center as you near election day to try to secure all those people in the middle. The result is hypocrites as our elected leaders, and an increasingly polarized electorate; extremism takes over, and nothing gets accomplished while people on dramatically opposite sides shout sound bites and wave their fists at each other.

English parliament has representatives from 12 parties; Italy 17; France 4; in Canada 4 are currently represented in the House of Commons, with 15 other parties registered with Elections Canada.

Do we really believe that what this country needs can be represented by one of two parties? That’s like saying there is the need for only two religions: Judaism and Catholicism. Everything else is just a subset, right?

(And yes, for those who wonder, I also think we need to revamp the electoral system. The current one was devised when only landed, white, educated men could vote. Patchwork amendments are just not doing it anymore. And while we’re at it, how about we look at the constitution as a mission statement and stop treating it like it’s the Holy Word?)

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27
Apr
10

College Students and the New Paradigm

I’ve talked to people at various institutions, and this problem, or at least some form of it, seems to be universal.

Students behave irresponsibly, and then cast around to find someone else to blame for it.

Some stories from the trenches:

They don’t write down what the assignment is: the teacher did not communicate it effectively. They don’t prepare sufficiently for a quiz: the material was covered too quickly or not thoroughly enough. (I actually had a student tell me once that it was my job that he learn the material.) They don’t note the date, time, and place of the final exam, or show up 45 minutes too late, and report to your director that you were not present as arranged. They cheat on a test, deny it, and are allowed to continue their studies. They fail to show up 50% of the time, are given a poor grade, and have their tuition-paying parents call the provost, who instructs the instructor to give the student a B.

Too many students take too little accountability for their lives, education, actions. Too many parents, teachers, administrators are too willing to enable these irresponsible behaviors. Too many students are too eager to cast the nearest scapegoat under the wheels of the bus in order to attempt to save their own skin.

Too many colleges/universities employ too many adjuncts, who have too little power to fight this trend with confidence of protection by the administration. Too many tenure-track faculty fear the result to their application for tenure if they try to uphold academic and integrity standards.

Meanwhile the students who behave responsibly and with integrity receive degrees from institutions who risk losing credibility if these practices were widely known.

It’s too scary, any way you look at it.

25
Apr
10

Interesting Oil

My husband is reading the ingredients list on a box of animal crackers as a) we give my son a hard time for living on them and b) I hold out my hand asking for some.

I am initially encouraged by the fact that the first ingredient listed is enriched wheat flour. This victory of sorts is short-lived, though, as I read on and discover that the 2nd “ingredient” is actually a list of oils that “may” be included, notably “interestified soybean oil.” I’m afraid I can’t divulge what is done to soybean oil to make it more interesting; this information is not included on the package. I guess I might feel better if it was “increasinglyhealthfulfied soybean oil” but maybe the technology for that doesn’t exist yet.

Meanwhile, we continue to be astounded at how cheap it is to buy food that’s bad for you (i.e. McDonald’s hamburgers at $1.00 a piece) and how expensive it is to eat healthfully (i.e. I paid $5.32 for 2 leeks and $3.99/lb for green peppers today). I worry about this as my oldest son moves out of his dorm in a week and starts buying his own food. They teach a lot of things at that college of his, but how to buy groceries is probably not one of them. At the same time the food-packaging middlemen continue to shrink package sizes and sneak sugar/sucrose/corn syrup, msg, and things-that-don’t-exist-in-nature into our food. It may be “interestified,” but it would be even better if it was honest, healthful, and tasty.

23
Apr
10

Ugly Shoes

These are just unspeakably ugly.

What are these designers thinking?

These might kick shoe-design a@# (I can’t decide: I like them, then I really don’t, then I do, then I don’t), but just looking at the picture makes my back hurt:

And is this picture about the shoes? or about her legs?

And what about these?

Words fail me. This never happens.

20
Apr
10

Verizon LG Cosmos

I got a new phone over the weekend. Verizon wanted to charge me $20 to transfer the photos from my old one; and apparently it’s one of 5 or 6 that you can get if you’re not interested in spending an additional $10/month for mandatory internet service. They’re not even trying to hide the fact that they’re fleecing you anymore; the methods of doing so are wide, deep, and shameless.

Anyway, it’s a “cool” phone, and satisfies the techie in me. Feels nice in the hand, slides open to a QWERTY keyboard for texting, my son uploaded a beautiful Van Gogh image to use as my wallpaper.

Funny thing, though; I’m not any happier now than I was before I got it.

Weird.

19
Apr
10

Is it finally here?

Apparently, if I want some space in between my photos, I have to write something, or wordpress just bumps them all together.

I love how the sun peeks into the corner of this picture; I don’t love how it made that weird circle in the middle of it though.

I was striving in this one for the focus to be on a deeper branch, with the branches in the foreground and the rail in the back blurry.

I was hoping that the people who lived in the house that belonged to this tree didn’t mind that I was practically lying down in their yard to get this shot.

I won’t tell you how long I stood on the other side of this line of trees trying to figure out how to get a closeup without trespassing; I finally decided it was hopeless, took 7 steps, and then realized that there was a little alley-street on the other side of it. Duh.

I did lay on the sidewalk for this one. Nobody was looking (I checked).

17
Apr
10

Wherever you go, be there!

Vignettes from the week:

A young couple out for a walk on a beautiful spring day; they’re each talking on their respective cell phones; I presume not to each other.

A student gets hit by a car while texting as she crosses the street. (I’m not making this up.)

A women sits in the audience at a concert and checks her email, plays solitaire and “surfs the net” (does anybody say that any more, well, besides me just now?) on her smartphone.

You all see this, all the time. You’re at your child’s music concert or play or awards ceremony, and everybody’s elbowing each other to get in position with their video cameras; but is anybody watching?

I read something once (of course, being me, I can remember NONE of the details, such as what the book was, or who wrote it) about the true route towards spiritual peace and happiness, and that it was to do everything with full attention. (“Mindfully, young Patawan.”) If you’re washing dishes, feel the soap on your hands and pay attention to the contour of the pan and the soothing quality of the repetitive scouring motion. If you’re folding clothes, notice the softness of the clean fabric and enjoy the interplay of colors in the piles of folded shirts. Taste your food, watch the sun rise (or set, or both), listen to your cat purr as you stroke its fur.

I think this is probably one of the most beautiful things about the tradition of yoga. I had a wonderful yoga teacher for a while who used to tell us to say things like “hello hamstrings” when we stepped into that first downward dog, or “hello feet, thank you so much for carrying me through the day” as we did bound angle pose. We would all laugh, a little, but think about it — do you really appreciate what your feet do for you? (I also learned recently that a quarter of the bones in your body are in your feet. Interesting. . .)

So now I’m going to go mindfully fold my towels.

Ommmmm. . . .




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